BY MICHAEL RICONDA
SUFFERN – Input from Suffern’s Board of Trustees was not sought in the crafting of the village’s 2015-2016 draft budget or on its proposed tax and rate hikes, according to two members of the board.
The budget proposal, which was submitted on March 20, raised eyebrows with sizable increases in property taxes, sewer and water rates. Under the proposal, property taxes would go up from $6.196 per $100 assessed valuation to $7.607, a 22.8 percent increase, while the sewer fund would go up by $52,000 for a 14.4 percent increase and the water rate would go up by $245,000 for a 12.2 percent increase.
The uptick surprised many residents, who bombarded the village board with concerns about the sizable increases. In response, Village Trustee Ed Markunas insisted he was opposed to the tax and rate hikes.
“I want you to know that I am deeply committed to revising this budget and not placing this tax burden on the backs of our hard working men , women, retirees and the elderly,” Marrkunas wrote in an email to constituents. “I do not want to see our life long residents moving out or putting this burden on their children and or grandchildren.”
Markunas added that neither he nor the rest of the trustees were consulted on the proposal, but vowed to bring resident concerns to Suffern Mayor Patricia Abato and the rest of the board at the Board’s next meeting.
“Believe me, I am trying to stop the stupidity,” Markunas added.
Trustee Frank Hagan agreed with Markunas, stating the budget was given to them at a meeting, but they did not give input beforehand. Hagan went on to echo his opposition to the tax and rate hikes, arguing that it was an unfair way to compensate for years of mismanagement.
“The whole thing is crazy,” Hagan said. “I can’t back a budget like this. “It would bankrupt the people who live here.”
Hagan stated that he planned to visit the village’s departments and discuss the proposal, asking them to cut where they can to mitigate the effects of the shortfalls on taxpayers.
The increases were characterized as difficult to mitigate by Suffern Treasurer Michael Genito, who stated in his budget message that shrinking income from taxable assets, growing employee benefit costs and a lack of room for cuts left little choice but to place more obligations on Suffern property-owners.
At the same time, Genito pointed to efforts to mitigate future obligations on revenue anticipation notes and similar cash flow fixes as a major contributing factor to the tight solid waste and water funds.
Abato, whom Hagan said helped develop the budget, did not respond to calls for comment.
The first public discussion on the budget is scheduled for April 13 at the Suffern Village Hall at 7 p.m.