Beacon Budget Back to Normal

Spending plan would include minimal tax decrease

Beacon Mayor Lee Kyriacou on Monday (Oct. 4) revealed the city’s 2022 budget proposal, a return in some ways to normalcy after a COVID-driven aberration. 

While the 2021 budget drew more than $2 million from savings to make up for sales tax and other revenues lost to the pandemic shutdown, the proposed spending for next year uses a more typical $550,000 from reserves. 

The city’s general fund spending is proposed at $23.4 million, a $1 million increase over 2021. The water and sewer funds, which are calculated separately, are proposed at $4 million and $5.2 million, respectively. Water spending will increase about $114,000 and sewer by $500,000. 

Water bill rates would rise 2.5 percent to help cover capital investments.

Residential properties will see a slight (0.66 percent) decrease in their city tax bills, the result of increased assessments balanced by a nearly 10 percent tax rate decrease. With roughly even assessments, commercial and apartment properties will pay at a 3.3 percent higher tax rate, the first increase since 2015. The net impact will be about a 3 percent tax bill increase. 

Overall the city will increase its tax levy from $11.8 million to the state cap, which for Beacon is $12.3 million. It will gain about $380,000 in tax revenue due to new construction.

Where the Cap Money Went

Beacon’s 2021 budget included a 1.7 percent residential tax increase, which amounted to about $35 on a $300,000 home. The increase was added after residents called on the City Council to “go to cap,” or figure in the maximum tax increase, to create about $186,000 in revenue to fund community programs. 

Here’s where those budget add-ons stand:

  • Grants to supplement food distribution programs already supported by Dutchess County ($25,000). The money was spent providing groceries for the city’s weekly food distribution programs at Rombout Middle School and the Recreation Department office, as well as in support of Fareground’s community food programs.
  • A survey to determine the community’s recreation needs and views on a community center ($50,000). The city expects to name a consultant to conduct the study before the end of the year.
  • A study of a possible municipal broadband program ($30,000). Hasn’t happened yet. 
  • Weekend trash and recycling pickup at municipal parks ($14,000). City monitored, but weekend pickup wasn’t needed. 
  • Bathroom maintenance at the parks ($25,000). Implemented and also included in 2022 budget.
  • Creation of a voucher program that seniors and other residents without transportation can use for free taxi rides ($10,000). Pending; the money is being transferred to a pilot municipal compost initiative. 
  • A test of a program to increase resident participation in the budget process ($5,000). Hasn’t happened yet.

Major spending initiatives include, for the first time, $200,000 for emergency medical services and what is expected to be a one-time $323,000 payment to bring the city up-to-date with its retirement contributions for its municipal employees. 

The Police Department would represent the city’s largest expenditure at $5.9 million, which is roughly equivalent with 2021 spending. A captain’s position, unfilled since mid-2020, would be eliminated, while Kyriacou has proposed adding a second civilian dispatch officer, which would have to be negotiated with the officers’ union. If added, the move would save about $80,000 and free up an officer for patrol duty. 

The budget also proposes to retain the case manager position that was added this year through a partnership with Mental Health America of Dutchess County. The manager has been a “great success” for the Police Department, City Administrator Chris White said on Monday. 

Parks and recreation spending would increase $94,000, or 11 percent, which would likely fund facility and building repairs at the University Settlement Camp, White said. 

The City Council will spend the next several weeks meeting with department heads to review their budgets in detail. A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 15. The budget must be adopted by the end of the year. 

Good cause eviction

City Attorney Nick Ward-Willis told the council on Monday that he has asked the state Attorney General’s Office for guidance on whether Beacon can adopt a “good cause eviction” law that would protect tenants from inordinate rent increases and some evictions. 

A week earlier, Ward-Willis spoke to the council in a private session about the law. This week he wrote in a memo that he believes the city could face legal challenges if it adopts good-cause legislation, which, after failing to gain traction at the state level, has been enacted recently in Albany and Hudson. 

The state Legislature “has adopted a statewide regulatory scheme which courts have interpreted to prevent a municipality from enacting its own landlord/tenant statute,” Ward-Willis wrote. “If this were permitted, then each municipality could have its own unique regulatory scheme, some that might protect tenants and others that might grant more rights to landlords.”

Tom DePietro, the president of Hudson’s Common Council, said in an interview this week that the city was aware of the potential for legal challenges before its Sept. 21 vote on a good-cause measure. It passed 8-1. 

“If you’re in city government long enough, you realize you’re constantly being told by attorneys about the possibilities of a lawsuit,” he said. “Even with that caution, we were very concerned with protecting tenants in our city.”

The City Council is expected to discuss the proposal again during its Tuesday (Oct. 12) workshop.

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