Proposed budget includes 2.4 percent reduction
By Jeff Simms
Beacon homeowners could see a drop in their property taxes next year for the first time since 2008 under the city’s proposed budget.
The proposal, which details $26.9 million in spending, was presented to the City Council on Oct. 3. It includes a 2.43 percent tax decrease on homes and a 0.43 percent decrease on commercial properties.
For the fourth year in a row, the city’s budget also stays within the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap, which Beacon Mayor Randy Casale noted has been a challenge for municipalities statewide. Instituted in 2012, the cap requires school districts and local governments to raise property taxes each year by no more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. The 2017 allowable increase is 0.68 percent.
Casale said that increased housing density has allowed Beacon to stay within the cap while still funding infrastructure such as road and sewer improvements. The proposed budget includes a 10 percent increase in sewer rates, although residential water costs would remain unchanged. Beacon Administrator Anthony Ruggiero said the city has spent around $5 million over the last five years making improvements to its aging sewer system.
The budget proposal includes approximately $257,000 in recreation spending, which will fund the operation of the city swimming pool in 2017 and the afterschool program done with the Beacon school district.
An initiative to replace city streetlights with energy-efficient LED bulbs is expected to save $127,000 annually when completed next spring, but more frequent recycling pick-up has added $93,000 in costs.
The budget allows for the hiring of a new police officer, bringing the total to 35 officers, including 28 on patrol.
The budget proposal would require the city to withdraw $162,980 from its savings, down from $247,500 a year ago.
The next step in the process are two public workshops, on Oct. 24 and Nov. 14, with council members and department heads, followed by a public hearing on Dec. 5.