Staying within the state’s two percent property tax cap isn’t getting any easier, according to Scotia Mayor Kris Kastberg, and the village wants to keep all its budgeting options open by setting the stage to exceed it.
The Village Board of Trustees at its most recent meeting approved advancing a local law to exceed the tax levy threshold, which has not yet been calculated. The required public hearing on the proposition will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m. at Village Hall. The local law requires approval from 60 percent of the board, which is the normal 3-2 ratio to adopt resolutions.
Kastberg said approving the override would allow the board to keep options open as the budget process begins.
“It is wise management to pass the local law to allow you to exceed it every year,” Kastberg said. “I don’t want people thinking we are going to just start into it right away and exceed it.”
The village must adopt a budget by May 1 for its fiscal year starting June 1.
Kastberg said he would vote every year to exceed the cap because he doesn’t believe state lawmakers should control local governments. If voters didn’t approve how a municipality was managed, he argued residents can vote local lawmakers out of office.
Last year, Scotia voted to override the tax cap, but its adopted $8.4 million 2012-13 budget remained within the allowable limit. Every 1 percent increase in Scotia’s property tax levy raises an addition $35,000 in taxes.
“For the village to continue providing its services year after year takes about a 3 percent tax increase each year,” Kastberg said.
Taxpayers have seen the 2 percent property tax cap isn’t as simple as the name implies because municipalities and school districts exceed a 2 percent tax levy increase while remaining within the cap. There are several exemptions applied before the actual limit is calculated, but Kastberg said some exemptions were reduced this year relating to pension costs. Cuts to services are increasingly a possibility for the 2013-14 budget.
“It is going to be even tougher to reach the 2 percent this year,” Kastberg said. “[Gov. Andrew Cuomo] is making us poorer and the state richer.”
To help alleviate some fiscal pressure, village officials are reviewing fees.
“I have all my department heads reviewing all the fees that we charge,” Kastberg said. “It is not going to make a huge difference for us but it will at least cover the cost of employees.”
The fee for building inspectors to do an inspection is actually less than what it costs to complete it, according to Kastberg.
Another area he targeted was creating a two-tiered system for park fees, with residents charged a lesser amount than non-residents. Village officials plan to review what other municipalities charge for people to use their parks. Then, the village might raise fees for non-residents to be comparable to surrounding communities.
The Scotia-Glenville Lions Club has also proposed building a large pavilion in the “meadows” section of Collins Park. This prompted Kastberg to debate changing the village code to allow for some kind of alcoholic beverages only at the pavilion through a special permit.
“I have had people in the past say, ‘Geez, I would like to have a glass of wine while I’m watching the a cappella group at Freedom Park,’” Kastberg said.
Trustee John Lockwood suggested the village should reserve the right to revoke or not offer a permit.
Police Chief Peter Frisoni Jr. said during the meeting he wasn’t opposed to alcohol being allowed at the pavilion through a special permit, but glass containers should be banned. He suggested making the license visible for police officers driving through the area.