Bedford property owners will have an opportunity next week to question, protest or applaud town officials’ proposed spending on the services they look to provide next year. 

A public hearing on the preliminary $41 million budget will be held Dec. 3, ahead of the 2020 spending plan’s formal adoption.
The budget next year would hike the total property taxes collected by just over 3 percent while remaining comfortably within the state cap on tax-levy increases. A homeowner’s tax rate would go to $36.78 for each $1,000 of assessed value, up $1.09.

In a work session before the board’s Tuesday, Nov. 19, meeting, Councilman Don Scott called for revised revenue estimates and budget economies that could reduce the proposed property-tax increase. Property owners, he noted, have lost the property-tax write-off on their federal income taxes and are now paying an even higher sales tax. Scott, one of the board’s two Republicans—both leaving in January—lost in his bid to, among other things, increase the budgeted amount the town expects to receive in increased sales tax revenue and decrease the amount of overtime paid to town employees. 

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Still subject to adjustments before and after the public hearing, the budget as it now stands earmarks $40,943,398 in 2020 spending, up from the current year’s $39 million allocation.  

Comptroller Abraham Zambrano, in a memo to the Town Board, called his proposed budget “fiscally prudent” and urged its adoption.

Three major townwide appropriations—for the general fund, highways and open-space acquisition—total $32,462,619, accounting for 83.7 percent, or $21,755,623, of the total tax levy, Zambrano said. 

“Based on the town’s average assessed valuation of $65,000 and a proposed tax rate of $36.7829 per $1,000 of assessed valuation,” he noted, “the 2020 tentative tax levy will generate a tax increase of $70.95 in 2020. As for the rest of the smaller funds, the total appropriations of $8,480,779, or $4,220,110 in tax levy, represent 16.3 percent of the total levy.”

For the first time, a Bedford budget earmarks spending—$686,150 without a tax levy—for the $20 million sewer system that will serve the Katonah and Bedford Hills business districts  

The state legislature enacted a tax cap in 2012, limiting how much local jurisdictions—towns, counties, school and fire districts, for example—can increase the property-tax levy from one year to the next. Nominally a 2 percent ceiling, the cap can be set somewhat higher if assessed valuation grows or it can drop well below 2 percent if necessary to match the nation’s rate of inflation.