MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Town residents will see a slight 0.8 percent increase in their taxes in 2020 as Carmel once again remains under the state-imposed tax levy cap.

Supervisor Ken Schmitt presented the tentative 2020 fiscal year budget at the Town Board’s Oct. 2 meeting, and the figures presented in this article are subject to change as the budget process moves forward.

The $30.6 million spending package calls for a tax levy increase—the amount of money collected by property taxes—of $968,278, which comes under the tax levy cap by just under $45,000—or 2 percent.

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The mandatory cap, which was established by the state in 2011, requires that the tax levy can only increase by 2 percent, or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. The rate of inflation is 2.07 percent, so the cap for the 2020 budget was set at 2 percent, exactly the mark the tentative budget hits.

The 0.8 percent hike in the tax rate means that the average homeowner, assessed at $347,000, would pay approximately $1,752 on next year’s tax bill, a $14 increase from 2019. The assessed valuation reflects a current equalization rate of 100 percent.

“The town comptroller and I worked for many days and hours examining every single line item in the budget,” said Schmitt in his annual budget message. “Expenses and revenues were reviewed and carefully considered while formulating the tentative budget.”

The largest expenditure of the $30.6 million budget is employee compensation and benefit costs (salaries, healthcare, etc.), which came in at $21.6 million, approximately 70.4 percent of the entire budget.

Health insurance costs continue to increase but remained manageable.

“Since more employees are taking the buyout, we were able to lower some employee benefit lines,” said Mary Ann Maxwell, the town comptroller.

Revenues for the 2020 tentative budget rose approximately 4.4 percent. Employee health insurance contributions were up about $5,000 thanks to union contract negotiations. Interest earnings increased by $70,000 and building department fees (permits, certificates of occupancy, title searches, etc.) rose by about $90,000.

On the expenditure side, the tentative budget calls for using some reserve-fund money for several capital improvement projects. They include:

• Swan Cove improvement/upgrades - $100,000

• New Town Hall generator - $75,000

• Bathroom facilities at Baldwin Meadows Park - $75,000

• Unmarked police vehicle - $35,000

• New LED lighting/windows at Town Hall - $50,000

Other 2020 tentative budget drivers include debt payments from land acquisition, the Airport Park project, highway projects, water meter project, Water District No. 2, Water District No. 9, and Sewer District No. 1 projects. Total “new money” debt issued in a 2019 October BAN/Bond sale came to $6.6 million.

Garbage districts also would see an estimated 15 percent increase due to contract negotiations.

The budget for snow materials expense was set at $700,000. The snow reserve fund balance at the end of 2018 was $750,000 but due to a rough winter between January and March 2019, Maxwell said there may be a need to transfer money into the snow overtime line to cover overtime costs through the end of 2019. The available balance in the overtime line is just over $46,000.

Maxwell said there was some concern about 2020 mortgage-tax revenue, projected at $950,000. That’s the same amount that was projected for 2019, which is a number town officials now say won’t likely be met. As of September, Maxwell said, the town had collected just $680,000 in mortgage tax. Officials attribute that to a larger-than-usual number of cash buys.

The tentative budget is now turned over to the entire Town Board, which can make changes but must adopt a preliminary budget by its Oct. 16 meeting. A public hearing on the budget will be held on Nov. 6. The final budget must be approved and sent to Albany no later than Nov. 20.