ROTTERDAM — The Town Board will hold a public hearing next week on a $27.7 million proposed spending plan for 2023 that would reduce spending, keep property taxes flat, cut water and sewer rates and settle a legal dispute with the owners of ViaPort mall over a canceled lease agreement worth nearly $250,000.
The proposed 2023 budget would reduce spending by $284,604 from the current operating budget, the equivalent of 1%. The town’s tax levy would remain essentially flat at $12.5 million, split between the town’s general and highway funds. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Nov. 9.
Homeowners, under the proposed spending plan, would pay $4.25 per $1,000 of assessed property value, while commercial property owners would pay $8.26 per $1,000 of assessed value — marking the first time taxes in town have remained flat in years.
“I’m pleased with the budget,” said Supervisor Mollie Collins. “I think with inflation being the way it is, that was one of our driving forces to try and come in flat so that there wasn’t any increase for our residents because I think everybody is feeling it.”
The proposed spending plan uses $493,999 in fund balance to balance the $18 million general budget and $406,000 to balance the $4.7 million highway budget, according to Marcus Montgomery, the town’s comptroller. The town would have around $5 million in combined fund balance for the general and highway budget after the allocations.
Officials also appropriated $136,817 in fund balance for Sewer District No. 2 and $13,000 for Sewer District No. 5 to help drive down rates. Residents in Water Districts No. 3, 4 and 5 also will see reduced rates due to the allocation of fund balance worth $79,543, $1,000 and $239,901, respectively, Montgomery said.
“Our goal was to keep taxes flat and we have enough fund balance to do that, and I think honestly it’s the right thing to do at this point and time,” he said.
The budget includes $3.7 million in projected sales tax revenue, a $102,611 increase from the current spending plan, or 2.8%.
A number of positions have been slashed under the proposed budget, including a director of public works, which officials budgeted $107,000 for last year. A part-time clerk and audit clerk positions were also eliminated, a savings of $19,000 and $20,000, respectively.
Collins said the public works position was eliminated in January and that the department is now being overseen by the town’s senior building inspector, who had prior experience running a public works department and is now overseeing both departments.
“I think we have a lot of smart and good people that work for the town of Rotterdam and I like to take advantage of their knowledge when I can,” she said.
The proposed spending plan increases the town’s police budget by $113,903, or 1.7%, to $6.6 million, and includes a $12,281 raise for the chief of police, bringing the annual salary to $171,934. The deputy chief would receive an $8,000 raise, bringing the salary to $147,525.
Collins said overall the proposed budget, hammered out by lawmakers during a series of meetings over the past month, would maintain the same level of services that residents have come to expect while reducing unnecessary expenses.
The largest cost-savings comes from the town’s Building Department, which was budgeted $1.5 million last year for building repairs — an allocation driven by plans to relocate town facilities to the shuttered Kmart facility at ViaPort. The line has been reduced to $15,000 under the proposed budget.
The previous Town Board approved the ViaPort move last year, and paid a $1 million security deposit to secure the 50,000-square-foot space using American Rescue Plan Act funds.
But a slate of new lawmakers seated earlier this year nullified the deal due to a procedural error that didn’t follow state law, blindsiding the mall owners and prompting concerns about a protracted legal battle.
Lawmakers last month ultimately reached a settlement where the mall owners would return the $1 million security deposit in exchange for the town paying out $243,750 — a fraction of the $3.9 million the town would have been liable for for backing out of the lease agreement.
Montgomery said the settlement will be paid using fund balance.
Water and sewer rates would decrease under the proposed budget, which has been a particular issue as the town continues to upgrade aging infrastructure.
The decrease is driven largely by expiring debt service throughout the special tax districts and a reduction in contracted engineering services, which equates to hundreds of thousands in combined savings.
Rates in Water District No. 5, the town’s largest water district, would decrease by $23.04, from $157.89 to $137.85, according to the proposal.
But rates throughout the district are poised to increase in the coming years after lawmakers approved more than $30 million in borrowing to make upgrades throughout the district in the coming years. It’s unclear how substantial the increases would be to taxpayers. The town is currently in the process of applying for a number of grants to help offset costs for the upgrades.
A public hearing on the proposed 2023 budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Town Hall, 1100 Sunrise Blvd.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.
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This folks is how Republicans do things.