Tentative Town Budget Calls for 1.6% Tax Hike

Comptroller Mary Ann Maxwell explains the 2017 tentative budget during the Oct. 5 Town Board meeting. Credits: Bob Dumas

MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The tentative Carmel town budget comes in under the state-imposed tax levy cap, while calling for 1.6 percent increase in the tax rate.

Supervisor Ken Schmitt presented the tentative budget at last week’s Town Board meeting.

“We have a very responsible budget,” Schmitt said. “It is very tight, but very responsible.”

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Town Comptroller Mary Ann Maxwell laid out the details of the budget, a $27.1 million spending package, in a PowerPoint presentation.

Maxwell said the average assessed home, which is $204,940, would have a tax bill of about $1,711, up $26 from last year. The tax rate would be at 8.35 percent, a 1.6 percent increase from 2016’s budget. It is, the comptroller noted, the lowest tax rate increase in the past 10 years.

The state-mandated tax cap, which was implemented in 2011, is 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lowest. As Maxwell pointed out, .68 percent is the current rate of inflation, so that becomes this year’s cap. That .68 cap equates to the maximum allowed tax levy increase of $348,766 in the Carmel budget. But due to some retired capital debt, the town has an available carryover from 2016 to 2017 of $527,503. When added to the $348,766, there is a total allowable tax levy increase of $876,269. The proposed 2017 tax levy increase is $353,036, which is under Carmel’s allowable tax cap ($876,269) by $523,233.

“That’s in part due to good financial planning and an available carryover from a retired capital debt,” Maxwell said.

Of the $27.1 million in expenditures, approximately $19.3 million is budgeted for employee compensation and benefit costs, about 71.3 percent of the total budget.

Breaking the budget down further: public safety (police, traffic control, code enforcement, etc.) costs come to $9.4 million (34.7 percent of the budget); transportation/highway costs (highway administration, garage, highway fund) are at $8.1 million (29.7 percent), and general government expenditures (town departments, info tech, insurance, etc.) tally $5.7 million (21.2 percent).

Other budget highlights include:
•    Health insurance costs continue to increase. The tentative budget looks for an 11 percent increase.
•    Workers comp rates are estimated to increase 6.5 percent over last year
•    Mortgage tax revenue continues to show signs of improvement; $800,000 has been budgeted for 2017, up $100,000 from last year, but Maxwell said it’s possible it could reach $900,000.
•    Employee benefit contributions have increased by $165,000 due to union contract settlements.
•    Court fees rose by $50,000.
•    Building permits, licenses etc. increased by $20,000.

Maxwell noted that total revenues increased by 8 percent, which helped keep the tax rate increase lower.

Also of interest is that the contracts for the town’s fire departments and ambulance corps will be presented during a public hearing on Nov. 2, much earlier than usual—a change precipitated by last year’s Mahopac Fire Department embezzlement scandal.

Last year’s Mahopac Fire Department (fire protection district no. 2) contract was originally for $1.75 million but was reduced to $1.2 million in the wake of the embezzlement discovery. This year’s contract remains flat, once again calling for $1.2 million in appropriations.

The Mahopac Falls Fire Department (fire protection district no. 1) contract is for $753,460; the Carmel Volunteer Fire Department (fire protection district no 3) contract is for $707,000; Carmel Volunteer Ambulance Corps is for $110,000; North Salem Volunteer Ambulance Corps is at $12,800.

In his tentative budget message, Schmitt said that the budget is the result of many months of preparation and collaboration between himself and Maxwell.

“The town comptroller and I worked for many days examining every single line item in the budget, reviewing it multiple times,” he said. “Expenses and revenues were reviewed and carefully considered.”

Schmitt noted that the tentative budget is still subject to review and change via recommendations from the Town Board. After the review, it becomes a “preliminary” budget, which is slated to be adopted by the Town Board at its Oct. 19 meeting. A public hearing for that preliminary budget is scheduled for Nov. 2. The public hearing for the fire and ambulance contracts will be held on that same date.

A vote on the final budget is slated for the Nov. 16, four days ahead of the state’s Nov. 20 deadline.

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