More spending, less revenue expected

By a unanimous vote, the Philipstown Town Board on Nov. 20 adopted a 2020 budget of $11.5 million, up from 2019’s total of $11.2 million.

Taxes will account for $8.19 million of the 2020 spending total, augmented by $2.03 million in estimated revenue and $1.28 million in reserves.

The tax share of the 2019 budget was $7.94 million.

New York State caps annual property tax increases at 2 percent, with allowances for contingencies.

The five-member Town Board could have pushed the tax total higher but wanted “to try to show some good faith with the taxpayers,” Supervisor Richard Shea said. Overall, he said, the budget “is tight. It’s always going to be tight.”

The 2020 adopted budget hews closely to the board’s draft budget, presented at a Nov. 6 public hearing, but exceeds the draft by $12,299 after last-minute adjustments.

Anticipating changes in the Justice Court, the board created the position of chief court clerk, with a salary of $48,000, while a deputy clerk will earn $41,110. The draft budget had provided for two clerks, each receiving $44,880.

Revisions to state law require the town Justice Court in 2020 to prosecute many minor traffic-law cases that had previously been handled by the Putnam County District Attorney’s Office. “We’re going to be stuck with more responsibilities” and “are going to be looking at more expenses, probably,” Shea said.

He added that higher levels of government increasingly seem to impose extra burdens on municipalities, while not offering any relief. “We send out more money and we get less in services,” he said.

Other changes from the draft budget include salary increases for the Climate Smart Communities program coordinator (from $7,200 to $8,200) and the addiction resources coordinator (from $15,000 to $17,500), as well as extra pay for the town Recreation and Parks director (from $69,360 to $70,500) to reflect her role in emergencies in managing the Recreation Center as a Red Cross shelter.

The final budget showed a reduction in the town clerk’s salary from $65,750 to $61,000, with a new clerk taking over in January. After serving since 2004, Town Clerk Tina Merando was defeated on Nov. 5 by Tara Percacciolo, secretary to various town advisory boards.

Costs of services by the four fire departments serving the town will be nearly $2 million in 2020. Of the total, $279,600 would go to the Continental Village Fire Department, up 2 percent from fiscal 2019; $796,882 to Garrison, a 1 percent increase; $789,823 to North Highlands, also a 1 percent rise; and $62,970 to Cold Spring, which covers parts of Philipstown, a decrease of 3 percent, which board members attributed to lower workers’ compensation charges.

Coverage by Philipstown’s two ambulance services would cost $603,466, an increase of 2 percent over fiscal 2019.

The 2020 budget also expects a $9,605 decrease in revenue, to $2,030,193. In part, that reflects a downturn in the town’s portion of the state mortgage tax. The 2019 budget foresaw $325,000 in mortgage taxes; the 2020 budget anticipates $310,000.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Armstrong was the founding news editor of The Current (then known as in 2010 and later a senior correspondent and contributing editor for the paper. She worked earlier in Washington as a White House correspondent and national affairs reporter and assistant news editor for daily international news services. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Politics and government