Rotterdam officials adopted the 2009 tax budget at the Wednesday, Nov. 10, Town Board meeting, with Supervisor Steve Tommasone noting that there are likely tough times ahead.
Unless the economy turns around briskly overnight, there will very likely be a town tax increase next year , said Tommasone.
Under the 2009 budget, the homestead tax levy will increase 1.74 percent, and the non-homestead tax levy will decrease 2.32 percent.
`The majority of the residents of the town will see very little change in their whole tax bill ` including the water and the sewer. If they happen to be one of 2,500 properties that are around the sewer line, most of those residents that are in Water District 5 and/or Sewer District 2, (they) will see about a $15 overall decrease in their total tax bill,` said Tommasone.
While the relatively small numbers may seem like welcome news to town taxpayers, Tommasone said there will most likely be a tax increase for 2010 due to state and county budget cuts that will be made as a result of the national economic crisis.
During this year’s budget discussions, board members, along with Pat Aragosa, the town’s comptroller, tried to plan for the upcoming year’s budget process and cuts the town would have to face and other costs the town can’t control.
`I look at the town as a total operation,` said Tommasone. `While we would like to keep the town tax to zero, it is next to impossible because you’re always going to have some increase in costs that are outside your control. We can to some degree control staffing costs, but when it comes to fringe benefits and gasoline or energy products that we might just need for maintenance and improvements ` it could be anything from a shovel to a door ` you’re talking about an increase in costs.`
He cautioned against depending on town savings too much because that can put future programs at risk. He also stated that town spending will be watched more closely than ever this year. No new hires will be made, and the town is going to look into consolidating services with other municipalities.
Councilman John Silva discussed the possibility of merging certain services from Rotterdam’s two school districts to keep costs down.
`I would love to have the town discuss the merging of our two school districts. We have a number of duplicative services,` said Silva. `We may not end up being 100 percent successful, but we can discuss the consolidation of some services to make things more [cost] efficient.`
He also said he would have preferred no tax increase this year, however, he said, looking into consolidating certain services might be an option for saving money down the line.
Tommasone said the town did their best to keep the 2009 budget modest.
`We’re holding the line on all spending for 2009 in particular. In other words, any equipment purchases that need to be made will go before the board at a Town Board meeting before the town departments can make the expenditure. Hopefully, this will help us keep our costs down,` said Tommasone.
Tommasone said that it’s important not to overestimate the revenue side of the budget to keep taxes superficially low because it could give taxpayers a false impression.
`The 2010 budget will be even tougher than the 2009 budget,` said Tommasone. `We will be very conservative in everything that we do on behalf of all the people in the town.`
Overall, the town is making an attempt to be frugal in the coming year in preparation for hard times to come.
`I am hopeful that the budget fares out and that our county turns around quickly, but we can’t solely rely on that. We have to watch where it is that we spend our hard-earned tax dollars,` said Tommasone. “