Beacon expects revenues could drop $2 million or more
Beacon Mayor Lee Kyriacou on Monday (Oct. 5) introduced the city’s proposed 2021 budget, which he said includes no layoffs or tax increases despite a shortfall that could rise to more than $2 million. At the same time, it anticipates a 6 percent increase in the Police Department budget.
The $22.2 million general fund budget shows $8.4 million in revenue along with an $11.7 million tax levy — about $200,000 more than last year due to new construction in the city. Water and sewer funds, which both show 2 percent increases for next year, are budgeted separately.
That leaves a general-fund gap of about $2.2 million. In a best-case scenario, the number could drop to around $700,000, Kyriacou said, but the city is planning for the worst and expects to draw from its reserves to make up for a loss in state aid and sales tax revenue due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
“No matter what the number is, we’re committed to covering it this year by the city’s general-fund balance,” he said. “The city cannot cover this size of a gap indefinitely, but we will do so in 2021.”
While the City Council has heard requests from some residents in recent public meetings and community forums to “defund the police” — although there is no consensus on what that means — the department’s proposed budget would increase by 6 percent in 2021, to $5.9 million.
Kyriacou said that while law enforcement costs account for just over 25 percent of the budget, the city’s spending on police is the lowest, per capita ($272 per resident in 2018), in the Mid-Hudson region, according to data collected by the state comptroller.
“We must proceed cautiously to ensure that any budget changes do not negatively affect safety, whether it’s of our citizenry or our employees,” the mayor said.
By not raising taxes to the maximum allowed under a state tax cap, Beacon will forgo about $186,000 in revenue.
“In this incredibly difficult time we must do our best not to contribute to the economic hardship felt by so many of our residents,” Kyriacou said. “This is no easy task; many local governments are faced with tax increases, layoffs or both.”
Because its levy — the total amount Beacon will collect in taxes — is only increasing to account for new construction, existing properties will provide the city the same amount in tax revenue as the year before, although individual bills could vary. The proposal shows tax rates (the state’s cap is on the amount of taxes collected, not the rate at which properties are taxed) increasing 0.8 percent for residential properties, which make up about 70 percent of the city’s tax base, but decreasing 7.1 percent for commercial spaces.
The proposed budget also includes $20,000 for the Recreation Department for “community investment,” $70,000 for the possible hiring of a mental-health caseworker and $50,000 for pandemic-related expenses.
Over the next month, the council will meet virtually with department heads to discuss their budget needs and, if needed, revise Kyriacou’s proposal. A public hearing is tentative for Nov. 16; the budget must be adopted by the end of the year.