BY MICHAEL CAHILL
Residents of the Town of Haverstraw are bracing for a tax increase next year, after the town released its tentative 2013 budget last week
The proposed budget of $40.2 million includes a tax increase of 8.86 percent, and a tax levy increase of 11 percent, blowing past New York State’s new 2 percent tax levy cap. Roughly, those numbers will translate to an average tax increase of $150 per household in the town.
Supervisor Howard Phillips cites the fact that this year the town is caught between more mandated costs from the state and county, and a potentially costly decision from a binding arbitration decision with the Police PBA. The factors have combined to increase taxes this year.
This year the town lost $400,000 in reimbursements from the county for Haverstraw police officers assigned to the Rockland Narcotics Task Force and Intelligence Task Force. These officers were withdrawn from the taskforces after the county failed to pay their salaries. Additionally the county is no longer paying for elections, stretching local budgets across Rockland even further. In Haverstraw, taxpayers are expected to contribute $150,000 towards election costs next year.
However these extra costs are not just coming from the county, Phillips says. New York State is also mandating that local municipalities contribute more towards pensions this year. Increases in payments for the police and state employee retirement funds are expected to total $705,000 for Haverstraw.
The Town of Stony Point chose to amortize their payments to the retirement funds, meaning to pay them over time, which partly contributed to their 2013 budget coming in under the tax cap. Haverstraw instead chose to pay their contributions now, because, Phillips said, that more state mandated contribution increases are on the way in the coming years.
To top is all off, the town is engaged in a suit with the police union over wages that is now in binding arbitration. For the past year and 10 months the town has been without a contract for the police.
In the proposed budget the town has set aside $550,000 for any pay increases that may result from the arbitration decision. According to Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Philips, about 65 percent of the town budget goes to pay for police expenses.
In total these extra costs added nearly $2 million to the town budget and put it over the 2 percent tax levy cap before the town board even began to plan the 2013 budget.
Philips blames most this year’s on increased mandated contributions from both the state and county who are passing along costs in an effort to balance their own books.
“If we didn’t have these mandated costs, our tax increase would be 1 percent,” said Philips. “We’ve been very fiscally responsible here.”
Philips emphasized that although the tax percentage increase for this year is large, the actual monetary increase will be lower than in other towns. Philips cited Clarkstown as an example. Residents there are expecting a 6.5 percent tax increase, less than Haverstraw’s, but they will ultimately see a higher monetary increase than Haverstraw’s residents, according to Philips.
The reason for this is that Haverstraw has managed to keep town taxes low in recent years. At town hall, they still employees the same number of people as they did in 1980.
“How old do you think the chair you’re sitting in is?” asked Philips during an interview with The Rockland County Times. “That chair is from 1980, so is this desk and all the furniture here. We’ve kept costs in this town as low as they can be.”