By Steven Vegliante
As the New Year approaches, I wanted to give everyone an update on the budget adopted in the Town of Fallsburg.
The Town Board is proud to have once again passed a budget that neither exceeds the NYS Property Tax Cap nor diminishes services to residents.
It wasn’t easy…it took some belt tightening, but this year, the Town Board held the line and did not substantially raise Town of Fallsburg property taxes.
The Town of Fallsburg 2013 budget raises the property tax levy by a little less than 2%-just under the New York State mandated Tax Cap. The impact for a typical homeowner with the median assessed value of $100,000 will be an increase of less than $15.00.
Last year, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law the historic property tax cap that calls for local governments like the Town of Fallsburg to raise taxes each year no more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
Here’s the big dilemma: while there’s was the recognition by Albany that property tax increases need to be limited, there was no corresponding relief from the state to local municipalities in regard to expensive mandates that have been driving the taxes higher-like retirement and health benefit costs that rise by far more than 2% each year.
And while under the law, the Town Board had the right to exceed that 2% tax levy limit, each member of the Board was steadfast in their commitment to not override the statutory cap. So to meet the cap, we had to look to cut expenses in other areas.
One great thing about our board is that we have some bright and concerned businessmen – and two smart educators too – each serving you, each understanding the hard plight of the average Fallsburg taxpayer in this tough economy.
We know that every penny counts in our households and businesses-and that property taxes are already too big a burden for all of us. We get it.
So while it may have been easier to avoid the pain of cuts, our Board – each a homeowner in Fallsburg – decided to make hard choices and pass a budget under the cap.
We chose to sit down at numerous work sessions and public hearings, examine our expenditures line by line, look at our projected revenues, bond expenditures and other costs of town business, and make some really hard decisions to keep property taxes in line with the tax cap. We tasked our department heads to make every reasonable cut, avoid every possible increase in their expenditures, and to keep their individual budgets in line with that 2% tax cap.
Along with our department heads, we built a budget that reflects a smaller, smarter, and better government.
Initially, we faced a budget gap of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and a decreasing tax base due to various tax exemptions that continue to take properties off the tax rolls. We consolidated job functions. We consolidated purchasing. We explored consolidating additional services with other municipalities. We eliminated some positions that we either no longer needed or could not afford. Where possible, we moved those employees to other openings within the Town.
We did all of this while preserving the bulk of our fund balances. We will not mortgage our future to pay for our needs today.
The tax levy and budget cuts are only part of the issue. We also implanted new programs to improve revenues for governmental operations, like implementing new marketing strategies to bring more revenues in for our various public attractions such as our great golf courses and town parks.
The bottom line: After all the hard work was done, the Town Board delivered a budget that continues to deliver the important town services that our residents need, but also stayed within the provisions of the newly implemented tax cap-and the spirit of the law which is meant to ease the tax burden on our property taxpayers.
In 2013 we will continue to become leaner and meaner to make sure we are prepared for the next rainy day.
Finally, the Board and I would like to wish you all a joyous holiday season and a prosperous and healthy new year!