Rotterdam Republicans are speaking out against a new fee structure adopted in the 2014 budget last fall and poised to be codified by the Town Board sometime this month.
The Rotterdam Republican Committee and the two Republicans on the Town Board charge that the $50 annual fee for yard waste pickup and a $50 hike in fees for all of the town’s water districts are being used by the board’s Democratic majority to circumvent the state’s 2 percent tax cap. The GOP put out an newspaper insert earlier this month decrying the fees and is continuing to rouse opposition before the board’s meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“This is a travesty for those living on a fixed income,” committee Chairwoman Tracy Donovan said. “We are against these types of hidden taxes disguised as fees.”
But Supervisor Harry Buffardi, a Democrat, said the increases have nothing to do with spending elsewhere in the town’s $22.5 million spending plan. Rather, they correlate directly to the cost of maintaining the town’s brush pickup and water districts.
“It wasn’t to skirt the tax cap at all,” he said. “It’s to address real-life issues that have a cause-and-effect relationship with the budget.”
Buffardi said the brush pickup fee is to offset the more than $400,000 annual cost to the town of providing the service. Without the increase, he said the town would need to seek to trim the line item for brush pickup by that amount.
Buffardi said residents can also opt out of the brush pickup fee. He said residents can drop off brush at the town’s compost facility on Princetown Road free of charge.
The $50 increase in the town’s annual water rate of $25 will help build new infrastructure, he said. The additional revenue will help install a new well by the Rice Road fields and improve some of the aging components of the town’s water districts.
“I can do the same as people did in the past, just let it go and pass it on the next guy,” he said. “But I’ve chosen not to do that.”
That fee will hit water users in Rotterdam Junction especially hard. Users in Water District 3 and Water District 4 are already paying a larger annual rate to cover the 30-year bond that funded the construction of a 500,000-gallon water tank built in 2009.
The $2 million water tank project is already costing residents hundreds of dollars more on their annual water bill. Dick Karp, a resident of the hamlet, said he paid $548 for water service last year.
“All I need is another $50 on top of that,” he said.
Karp questioned why the hamlet and neighboring Pattersonville would have to contribute to building a new well when those users will likely never benefit from it. Unless infrastructure is built to connect the hamlets to town’s other water districts, he said residents there will be supplementing a wellhead they’ll never be able to use.
“I’d like to see a separation for what they’re going to spend on that well and what they’re going to spend everywhere else,” he said. “They should apportion the cost to each water district that’s going to benefit.”
Board members opted to continue a public hearing on the fee increases last week. Residents will get another opportunity to speak on the fee increases — both included in changes to the existing town laws — on Wednesday before the board votes.
Donovan acknowledged the board’s bloc of two Democrats and a Conservative are likely to approve the new local laws imposing the increased fees. Still, she believes it’s incumbent upon residents to speak out against the two measures.
“They’re implementing fees that are very unfair,” she said.