Scotia residents fear that if the village continues to increase property taxes, residents will begin leaving the area and the village will eventually disappear altogether.
Concerns about the increase to property taxes were raised by several residents during a public hearing on the village’s proposed 2021-22 budget, which would increase the property tax rate 7.2% or around $1 to $14.80 per $1,000 of assessed value from $13.80 per assessed value.
That increase would go far beyond the state’s 2% tax cap.
Mayor Tom Gifford said the increase comes from an increase in expenses of 3.2% to almost $7.9 million in 2021-22 from around $7.6 million in 2020-21. Gifford said the majority of the increase is from what the village pays into the state pension fund, which is going up $223,000.
“It’s something that we don’t have any input on,” he said.
Other increases come from COVID-related expenses and contractual obligations with the three unions in the village.
Gifford said many residents when asked what services they would want cut don’t have an answer.
“The majority of people in the village are appreciative of the village services and don’t want to give anything up,” Gifford said.
What complicates matters is that there isn’t a growing revenue base in the village to offset the costs to residents. Plus, its revenue base took an over $100,000 hit this fiscal year due to the pandemic.
“We are in the particularly uncomfortable position of having less income and more expenses,” Gifford said.
But residents were over Giffords reasoning for increasing the tax rate.
“It’s not just this year and saying this year is very narrow and I think that’s part of the problem with the current administration at this point,” village resident Susan Torelli said. “There’s a very narrow view of trying to take care of things this year.”
She said there is a clear trend of continuing tax increases in the village.
“This is a bigger issue than this year’s budget,” she said. “What has happened over the past 20 years is administrations haven’t wanted to tackle the big picture. They haven’t wanted to face the real truth that we don’t have the money to pay for our services.”
Torelli said she has no issues against the fire, police or other departments, but that the village simply can’t afford them.
She said the village has already cut as much of the “low hanging fruit” that it can and so the only other items left are the big ticket departments.
“The issue is that we haven’t planned for that at all,” she said.
Over the last two consecutive years of the five Alexander Burns has lived in the village the board has voted to override the tax cap and now it’s looking to do it for a third year.
That move should be a wake up call to all village residents that something needs to change, he said.
A couple residents asked why the town hasn’t bothered to look into ways the village could save money, such as combining services with a nearby municipality like Glenville.
Burns said he compared what he pays in property taxes in the village to a similarly assessed home in Glenville and it was cheaper for him to live in Glenville — by a little over $1,000 less — or the same services.
“By consolidating into one government that has room to grow revenue we set ourselves on a better financial footing,” he said.