Spending plan inches closer to cap following requests
The Beacon City Council could vote Monday (Dec. 7) to approve a 2021 budget that, after weeks of deliberations, would fund more community programs by raising taxes closer to the maximum allowed under a state tax cap.
The first draft of the budget planned to forgo about $186,000 in revenue to keep property taxes flat, but after some residents urged the council to “go to cap,” its members discussed a compromise during a Nov. 30 workshop that would include a modest tax increase while funding the remainder of the add-ons from reserves.
Depending on what the council approves, the tax increase could amount to about $35 per year on a home valued at $300,000, or less, based on if and how much the council draws from savings. The budget already anticipates taking as much as $2.2 million from reserves to offset a loss in state aid and sales tax revenue due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
Mayor Lee Kyriacou credited the previous mayor, Randy Casale, and councils for building a healthy fund balance for such unforeseen circumstances. “We’re in the middle of a rainy day, and next year is probably our rainiest of days,” he said. “It’s hopefully not ongoing.”
The council agreed during the workshop to add about $159,000 in spending to the budget by funding:
- Grants to supplement food distribution programs already supported by Dutchess County ($25,000);
- A survey to determine the community’s recreation needs and views on a community center ($50,000);
- A study of a possible municipal broadband program ($30,000);
- Weekend trash and recycling pickup at municipal parks ($14,000);
- Bathroom maintenance at the parks ($25,000);
- A voucher program for free taxi rides ($10,000).
In addition, the council agreed to add $5,000 to test a program for what Council Member Dan Aymar-Blair called “participatory budgeting.”
“When we go out for feedback, we know there are large segments of the public who are not showing up,” he explained. “The reason for that is because, in large part, they don’t think government works for them. But everybody in Beacon has an idea about a little way that we can make Beacon better.”
The council also appeared to lean toward adding the K-9 program back to the Police Department budget. If the city eliminates the program, it would have to pay for the dog’s early retirement. If the program continues, the dog, Apollo, will be paired with a new officer and could work for another three years.
“The dog increases our capability,” said Acting Police Chief Sands Frost, who recalled rescuing an older woman with dementia who wandered away from her home on a winter night. A police dog was able to follow her scent.
“That night, that dog probably saved her life,” Frost said.
The acting chief said he would look for cuts to offset the program, which costs about $24,000 a year, such as selling a rarely used police motorcycle.
With the add-ons, the budget calls for about $22.3 million in general-fund spending. Water and sewer funds, which both show 2 percent increases, are budgeted separately.
■ Beacon has received 30 resumes for the city administrator position held by Anthony Ruggiero, who will leave in January to become assistant commissioner for administration with the Dutchess County health department. Mayor Lee Kyriacou, who will select the hire, said on Monday (Nov. 30) that he plans to ask City Council members to help him whittle down the applicants so he can make a selection “reasonably quickly.”
■ Council Member Terry Nelson, who heads the committee overseeing the search for a police chief, said that the committee planned to interview candidates this week, and Nelson expected afterward to recommend two finalists to the mayor.