There is sure to be some head scratching in Montgomery over the preliminary budget presented last week. While town officials plan to override the tax cap, Supervisor Mike Hayes said most residents can actually expect to see a decrease in their town tax bill.
The tax cap on the levy this year is 1.84 percent.
According to Hayes, the town was hit, like many other municipalities, by large increases in costs such as health insurance and worker’s compensation. However, the town also received a huge booster shot as well—a “substantial” increase (about $30 million) in the assessed value of the town as large buildings were added to the rolls in July.
“Quite frankly, we’re probably in better shape than we initially thought,” said Hayes.
While the increase in the town’s assessed value was welcome news, the chances that it will happen again next year are pretty slim and Hayes called it a “one shot deal.”
Taking that into consideration, the preliminary budget presented by Hayes at the town board’s work session on Thursday will use the same amount of fund balance for all funds as was used the previous year. Hayes said he was “comfortable” with those numbers.
The budget also includes two new leased vehicles for the police department, an increase for senior services and celebrations, as well as a five percent increase for both libraries. All employees, including elected officials and police officers, will receive a two percent raise.
Town resident Susan Cockburn asked the board whether the elected officials would be contributing toward their health insurance as she had suggested in a previous meeting, pointing out that the town’s employees currently pay a portion of their health insurance.
The preliminary budget does not call for that change. Supervisor Hayes noted that if the board members paid toward their health insurance, they would not have “much of a salary.”
“It’s been discussed on and off for a very long time,” said Hayes. “It’s up to the board.”
In the end, the budget called for a slight decrease in the A and D funds (0.0303 and 0.0075 percent, respectively) and a slight increase in the B fund (0.0365 %). Those changes translated into a decrease in the tax rates for all town residents.
For a home with an assessed value of $200,000 located within one of the three villages (Maybrook, Montgomery and Walden) the town tax will be decreased $6.07. For the same home outside the three villages, the decrease would be $0.28.
Of course, residents who have made improvements to their homes and increased their home’s assessed value will see a corresponding increase in their town taxes.
Public hearings for the budget, special districts (such as water) and the local law to override the tax cap, were set for Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. A copy of the preliminary budget was to be made available on the town’s website by Tuesday evening.
Following the presentation, Walden Mayor Susan Rumbold suggested that in the future the town board hold its budget work sessions in public, rather than discussing it one-on-one out of the public eye.
“It gives people a sense that you’re involved in the budget process more than it appears,” said Mayor Rumbold, pointing out that none of the board members had voiced questions, suggestions or objections during the supervisor’s presentation of his budget. “Sometimes people don’t understand the work that goes on, what goes into it.”
By RACHEL COLEMAN