Tax rate rises 6.4 percent for non-village residents
The Philipstown Town Board last week adopted a budget of about $11.4 million for 2021, a decrease of 1 percent from this year.
The board voted to take $1 million from its reserve accounts to make ends meet and increased property taxes by about 1.75 percent, although the rate will be 6.4 percent for residents who live outside the villages of Cold Spring and Nelsonville. Along with $8.3 million raised from taxes, $2 million will come from fees and other income.
Under the budget, the tax rate per $1,000 of property value will decrease by about 1.7 percent within the villages, whose municipal budgets cover needs within their borders. At the same time, the rate for non-village residents who rely on the town government for services will rise by 6.4 percent.
The five-member board voted unanimously to approve the budget during a Nov. 18 meeting at the Recreation Center in Garrison. Its tax hike falls within the state mandated 2 percent cap.
Supervisor Richard Shea said on Tuesday (Nov. 24) that Highway Department costs of $3.62 million drive much of the non-village increase. Although spending at the agency will drop 4 percent in 2021, Shea said the department has also seen cuts in state aid; retirement benefits for a departing employee; and a decrease in reserves to $550,000 from $835,000.
The budget anticipates snow removal costs of $368,000 for 2021, the same as for this year. As of Oct. 1, only $81,000 had been used for snow removal in 2020.
Philipstown also lost $20,000 in code enforcement income when Cold Spring pulled out over the summer from an agreement to share a building department with the town.
The budget includes $606,060 for the Philipstown and Garrison ambulance corps, an increase of less than 1 percent; $1.9 million for fire protection by the departments in Cold Spring, Continental Village, Garrison and North Highlands (the latter two have their own districts but funding is channeled through the town); and $18,500 for upkeep of historic cemeteries.
While the town clerk and director of parks and recreation will each receive raises of $1,000, to $62,000 and $71,500, respectively, the annual pay for the supervisor ($27,000), four board members ($18,000 each) and highway superintendent ($91,200) will remain unchanged.
Some town employees, but not all, will receive raises, which Councilor Robert Flaherty said may cause “a little dissension.” At the same time, he said, no one has lost their job or had their pay reduced, despite the economic shutdown.
Shea and Councilor John Van Tassel suggested the board hire a consultant to oversee employee evaluations and establish a uniform policy on pay hikes. That way, Van Tassel said, “raises would be merit-based and based on the financial situation of the town. That’s the only fair way to do it.”
Councilor Judy Farrell remarked that some jobs are harder to fill than others and that the town must retain outstanding personnel. “This is a good budget, in a very difficult year,” she said.