CORTLANDT, N.Y. - The Cortlandt Town Board approved the 2013 budget on Monday the same evening as the public hearing, which no one from the public attended.
Although taxes are going up this year, Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi said she's been able to maintain a "balanced budget for 22 years," by approving any item over $100 personally, throughout the year. Town budgets must be adopted by Dec. 20, under New York state law.
"We have had this financial approach, I think it’s a pretty good one, pay as you go," said Puglisi.
In the 2013 budgets.
"It's a very, very low town tax increase," said Puglisi during an interview earlier in the budget season. She said it was necessary to raise taxes "because of the $500,000 increase we have to pay for pension plans and the increase to health benefits and the increase in our other costs." Puglisi also said reduced revenues contributed to the tax increase.
The proposed budget keeps the tax levy below New York state's 2 percent mandated cap, by 0.3 percentage points, but depending on where residents live, tax rates could go higher than 2 percent. The proposed budget calls for tax rates to increase 2 percent in the unincorporated areas of the town, 3.5 percent in Croton-on-Hudson and 2.8 percent in Buchanan.
The proposed budget has a 1.4 percent spending increase. The total proposed budget is $36,984,414.
Tax bills are estimated in the proposed budget for an "average" homeowner with an assessed value of $7,500 in the town and Croton, and $5,000 in Buchanan. A homeowner in the town with a property assessed at the town average would pay an additional $34 per year, for an annual tax bill of $1,676. In Croton, the tax bill would increase $7, to $212. In Buchanan, the bill would increase $4.75, for an annual bill of $176.
For town residents, the town tax bill accounts for about 11 percent of their total annual bill. School district taxes account for the vast majority, about three-fourths, of taxpayer's annual bills.
Contracts with town unions haven't been negotiated for the 2013 fiscal year yet, and elected officials' salaries remain the same. No changes were made to the supervisor's proposed budget. Elected officials received a 1.5 percent salary increase in 2012, with the proposed budget showing no increase for 2013. Town Board members are paid $20,435, and the supervisor, who is also a board member, is paid $120,766 for the full-time position.
Over the past 10 years, the Cortlandt town tax rate has increased 18.5 percent, and the town's average annual increase over the past 10 years is 1.85 percent. From 1992 to 2003, town taxes remained flat, except for a 4 percent reduction and a 2 percent increase. Over 22 years, the town tax rate has increase $334 for the average assessed property.
In Croton, over the last 10 years, town taxes have increased 17.9 percent, and in Buchanan, 15.2 percent. Croton's and Buchanan's average annual tax rate increases over the past 10 years have been 1.79 percent and 1.52 percent, respectively. In Croton, over 22 years, town taxes have increased $38 for the average assessed property, and $14 in Buchanan.