CATSKILL — The town’s adopted $6.8 million budget for 2019 reflects a small tax levy increase of slightly more than one quarter of 1 percent over 2018. The 2018 budget by comparison, was $6.4 million. The increase is due to the town’s $9 million sewer project, which will carry a debt service of $219,000 each year until 2049.
Jefferson Heights and Leeds residents will pay for the increase, but the overall budget reflects the expenditure.
The board unanimously approved the budget, pending two revisions.
The amount for the Kiskatom Fire Department came in lower than what was originally planned and the assessed value of the town was also lower.
The town board at a meeting Tuesday approved a local law that allows the town to go above the state tax cap if necessary.
The cap, which limits the increase in property taxes, is set at the rate of inflation or at 2 percent, whichever is lower. For 2019, the cap is at 2 percent.
The meeting began with public hearings for the tax-cap local law and the budget.
Local realtor Angela Lanuto, and Conor Gillis, a representative of the state Association of Realtors, spoke on behalf of homeowners.
“I think this waiver will hurt homeowners,” Lanuto said. “We have an influx of new homeowners and the favorable taxes in the town helps attract them. This would deter people from coming to the area.”
Lanuto suggested the town look into raising taxes for box stores or incorporating the village to compensate for the budget needs.
The town always considers the best way to balance services and cost, Town Supervisor Doreen Davis said.
“We actually reduced the levy 1.6 percent in 2018 and 1.1 percent in 2017,” she said.
A major service that the town provides is its ambulance, Davis said.
“We have the largest population [in the county], two nursing homes and have the premiere ambulance for the county that commonly brings people to Columbia Memorial, St Peter’s and Albany Med,” Davis said.
The cost of running the service is $1.7 million and the revenue is $1.4 million, Davis said.
“We had to remove $300,000 from the fund balance to make up the difference,” she said.
The small increase in the levy is to make up for a $177,000 gap caused by the sewer project, Davis said.
“I think you would consider the sewer service a plus for homeowners,” Davis said, adding the service will be available to approximately 800 homeowners.
Some homeowners cannot afford to hook up to the sewer system, Lanuto said.
“People can get assistance from Catskill Mountain Housing or the Bank of Greene County,” Town Councilman Paul Vosburgh said.
In addition to hooking up and paying monthly bills to the village for using the system, the increase in taxes to the town is expected to be about $500 to $700 per household in the sewer district, Davis said.
“We originally thought it would cost them $800 to $900 a year,” she said. “The project started out as a $14 million project and was reduced to $9 million. We received a $4 million grant.”
Town officials hope the service will attract a hotel and other new businesses to the Thruway Exit 21 project being developed by the Greene County Industrial Development Agency.
“A hotel would spread out the debt payment,” Davis said.
Davis recommended Lanuto continue her efforts at the county level.
“That’s our next step,” Davis said. “And I plan to go to the village, too. We all need to work together.”
“Our goal is to work with local governments,” Gillis added. “We’re looking out for taxpayers.”
Davis appreciated their efforts, she said.
“You want to grow the tax base and so do we,” she said.
Planning Board Chairman Joseph Izzo attended the meeting.
“So in essence, there is no tax increase except in the sewer district,” he said.
Izzo also elaborated on an increase in the planning board’s budget.
“We requested an increase because there are four or five projects before the board that could have an Article 78 proceeding,” he said, adding that planners want to have funding available for potential litigation.
Some of the projects in question include the Tiny Tines Campground on Cairo Junction Road and the gun range.
“The last time the planning board had an Article 78, it cost the town $50,000,” Izzo said.