Faced with a shrinking tax base, unpaid bills from past budget years, no emergency funds and major increases in pension and healthcare costs, Village of Red Hook trustees voted on April 25 to approve a budget with a 7.21 percent increase in the tax levy.
The increase translates into an additional $78 per year on a home assessed at $200,000. The total budget is $1,775,096, with $1,116,257 (63 percent) coming from property taxes, and exceeds the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap.
“We never felt the cap was really doable [given the circumstances], but we were hoping to stay closer to that range. But we inherited a few surprises,” Mayor Ed Blundell said. “For example, early this year the fire department said ‘Hey, you know what, we think the village owes us some payments from the 2007 – 2009 time frame.'”
Blundell, who just finished his first year in office after being elected mayor in 2011, said the village board was blindsided by the revelation.
“At first I was flabbergasted that these payments could have been missed,” Blundell said. After reviewing the figures with the comptroller, Blundell said they determined there were two missed payments, for a total of approximately $40,000. According to Blundell, the board has decided the repayment will be split equally over the next four years.
One high-profile change to the budget was a reduction in cuts for the police. While initially considering a 10 percent reduction in the $423,000 spent on village law enforcement, the board settled for a 5.6 percent reduction in the police salary line, cutting it from $265,000 to $250,000. Police-related expenses made up approximately 23 percent of the overall budget last year, according to the village.
“We had a public hearing that was mainly about the police aspect of the budget. Ironically, most of the people there were town residents, not village residents. So what we did, we took the public input and looked at the budget and came up with [minus $15,000],” Blundell said.