Council expected to vote on budget next week

The Beacon City Council, which has been discussing tenant protection measures for weeks, is planning to include $25,000 in the city’s 2022 budget to connect residents facing eviction with legal aid and other resources. 

The council is expected to vote on the $23.4 million general fund budget on Monday (Dec. 6). The $4 million water and $5.2 million sewer funds are calculated separately, but will be voted on at the same time.

The additional spending, which Mayor Lee Kyriacou proposed during the council’s Nov. 29 workshop, would likely fund a part-time employee to partner with Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, an organization which has advised the council on landlord-tenant issues and offers similar services. 

The council also discussed a handful of other budget items during the workshop. The city plans to allocate $10,000 — up from $5,000 this year — for “participatory budgeting.” Although the council was unable to organize a citizen committee this year to provide input during its budget discussions, which was the initial intent, the initiative has evolved into a program to fund community improvements, such as tree planting and park maintenance.

That funding will be reserved for “physical” projects, while another budget line — $20,000 for “community investments” — will again be funneled through the Recreation Department. The city will invite nonprofit agencies that serve residents to submit proposals. 

In addition, about $87,000 will be added to the Police Department’s budget, reflecting salary increases included in the new four-year contract that the council approved with the police officers’ union last month. That will bring police spending to about $5.94 million, a nominal increase over 2021. 

Under the budget proposal, residential properties will see a slight decrease in their city tax bills, the result of increased assessments balanced by a nearly 10 percent tax rate decrease. With closer to even assessments, commercial and apartment properties will pay at a 3.2 percent higher tax rate, the first increase since 2015. The net impact will be about a 3 percent tax bill increase.

The budget increases the city’s tax levy from $11.8 million to the maximum allowed by a mandatory state cap, which for Beacon is $12.3 million. The city will gain about $380,000 in tax revenue from new construction. In 2022 it expects to draw $550,000 from reserves, a significant decrease from 2021, when the pandemic handicapped revenues. 

Accessory dwelling units hearing

The council will also hold a public hearing on Monday (Dec. 6) on a proposed law that would simplify the process for creating accessory dwelling unit apartments, a measure Kyriacou has championed. 

If approved, the city would allow ADUs to be built in all residential districts and the transitional district, which it believes will encourage homeowners to create smaller apartments that could be rented at affordable prices. Based on recent input from the Planning Board, the apartments could be no larger than either 40 percent or 50 percent of the square footage of the principal building, depending on the zoning district. 

The owner of the property would have to live on-site and ADUs could not be used as short-term rentals. Other provisions in the law, such as setback and parking requirements, are designed to keep costs down and minimize the need for variances for homeowners. 

The council has been split on the proposal. Kyriacou says the apartments will cost far less to build than new construction, which, if the aim is affordable housing, such as at the West End Lofts, requires supplemental funding to offer below-market-rate rents. ADUs could also be helpful for families hoping to keep older relatives in Beacon. 

Other council members have argued the law will do little to affect affordability in Beacon but would have negative, long-lasting effects on neighborhood character. 

Market to stay put

The Beacon Farmers’ Market, which typically moves indoors to the Memorial Building at 413 Main St. beginning in December, plans to remain outdoors year-round in the parking lot of the Dutchess County building at 223 Main St. due to its success since moving there in the spring. The market is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Behind The Story

Type: News

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

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics