Town Board plans to exceed cap for 2024
The Philipstown Town Board last week said it planned to exceed a state-mandated 2 percent cap on property-tax hikes and could increase taxes by 8.4 percent for 2024.
The board is considering a budget of nearly $12.9 million, with a tax levy of $9.5 million. At the board’s Oct. 5 meeting, Supervisor John Van Tassel said the increase would be 9.1 percent but that was adjusted after reviewing the numbers.
To fund the spending, the board voted 4-1 to pursue passage of a local law allowing it to override the tax cap. Unlike school boards, town boards need not conduct a voter referendum but must approve an override vote by at least 60 percent. A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday (Oct. 18) at Town Hall.
In addition to the $9.5 million in taxes, the draft budget anticipates the town will receive $2.46 million in revenue and take $900,000 from its savings.
When the board discussed the budget at the Oct. 5 meeting, Van Tassel attributed the town’s fiscal woes to dips in income from mortgage taxes, which are down 30 percent; a drop in fees collected for Recreation Department programs; and the cost of supplying water to the Garrison’s Landing and Continental Village districts during infrastructure upgrades.
“We’ve hit bottom,” Van Tassel said. “We’ve gotten to the point where we need to exceed the 2 percent cap. I know that’s hard to swallow.”
The board will conduct budget workshops with town agencies, fire departments and ambulance services during the rest of the month as it continues to refine the draft. “We probably will whittle this down a little bit,” the supervisor said. Typically, the board goes through three budget drafts before adopting a final version in November.
Under the initial draft, the four Town Board councilors in 2024 will each earn $18,000, as they did in 2023 and 2022, and the supervisor will again collect $27,000.
However, some officials and employees will receive raises. The salary for the elected town clerk and tax collector position, held by Tara Percacciolo, will increase by about 4 percent, to $67,000, and the elected highway superintendent, currently Adam Hotaling, will rise by about 5 percent, to $100,000.
Keeping salaries at 2023 levels makes only “a minuscule amount of difference,” Van Tassel said, expressing fears that Philipstown could lose good salaried staff without the pay boosts.
Councilor Judy Farrell, who cast the lone “no” vote on the preparatory override measure, voiced concerns about higher taxes. She also expressed frustration that the Garrison’s Landing water district has been “draining a lot of funds out of our budget for the last few years.” She added: “It’s vital, of course, that we provide water,” but “we have other needs to fund,” too.
Van Tassel and Councilor Robert Flaherty reported that, after intensive efforts, the town located a new well to serve Garrison’s Landing but that the town must still buy water because pipe connections remain unfinished.
Councilor Jason Angell joined Van Tassel, Flaherty and Megan Cotter in backing the tax-cap override but said that, in considering the property-tax structure, “I can’t help thinking about the assessment system it’s built on.” He recommended that a tax-cap override measure include the Town Board’s support for seeking funds to assist with a town-wide revaluation.
“Our system is not perfect. It’s what we can afford,” Van Tassel replied. Moreover, he maintained, a revaluation “has nothing to do with our current budget, nothing whatsoever.” However, he agreed that Angell should research options for a revaluation. “If we can afford to do it, I think it would be a service to Philipstown,” he said.
Meanwhile, he added, the town might identify properties with present assessments “way out of whack, and bring them into line.” However, state law fails to provide a way to reassess an individual property unless improvements have been made to it. That situation creates discrepancies which fuel calls for a town-wide revaluation.
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