MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The Town Board approved its 2019 budget last week, meeting the deadline calling for the financial plan to be sent to Albany by Nov. 20.
The board voted 4-1 to pass the budget, with Councilwoman Suzi McDonough casting the lone “no” vote. McDonough said she voted no because there were some items in the budget she didn’t approve of, but she refused to elaborate on which items those were.
The $29.8 million spending package calls for a 1.57 percent hike in the tax rate and stays under the 2 percent state-imposed tax levy cap.
As part of the 2019 budget, the town supervisor, Town Board members, town clerk and highway superintendent all received 4 percent raises. The supervisor’s annual salary will be $124,800; board members will get $21,000; the town clerk will earn $95,160, and the highway superintendent gets $128,960.
Comptroller Mary Ann Maxwell said the budget remains under the tax cap by $25,907, adding that with the 1.57 percent increase in the tax rate, the average homeowner (assessed at $347,000) would pay approximately $1,738 per year in municipal taxes, a $27 increase from the prior year. This assessed valuation reflects the current equalization rate of 100 percent.
Of the $29.8 million in expenditures, Maxwell noted, $21.1 million, or 70.8 percent of the total budget, will be spent on benefits and employee compensation (salaries, overtime, pensions, healthcare, workers’ comp, FICA/Medicare/MTA tax, etc.).
Schmitt laid out several new initiatives for next year. They include:
• A full-time special patrol officer to provide a greater level of security at the Town Hall during normal business hours. The position will be filled by a retired police officer at an annual salary of $30,000. “The world has changed, and we live in a volatile society,” Schmitt said. “We’ve put this off, but the time has come.”
• Two variable message boards that will be used to communicate with the public during emergencies and townwide events. “We currently don’t own one and I think it’s smart to buy our own,” Schmitt said. “They are solar-powered and used during emergencies like power outages. We need to go to the next level.”
• Funding to facilitate upgrades and improvements in the Town Hall’s recording studio. (The current equipment was installed 13 years ago.) “We have been having some issues [with the television broadcast of town meetings],” Schmitt said. “The video is not very clear, and we’ve had some audio issues.”
• Purchase and install a new air conditioning unit for the main meeting room in the Town Hall. The current unit has been in service since 1975. “It doesn’t make sense to keep putting money into it,” Schmitt said. “We are being proactive.”
• One full-time position in the Highway Department, which will bring the staff to 34 workers. The highway staff was reduced by four full-time workers during the economic downturn. The new position will replace a position that was cut from previous budgets. “The town has grown and there are more roads,” Schmitt noted.
• Funding for a professional consulting firm to assist the town in providing professional and technical guidance as the town begins to develop a new master plan and revise the town code. The budget includes $100,000 for this project. “The current master plan is 22 years old and we really need to update it,” he said.