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The Peekskill Common Council voted unanimously this week to override the state recommended tax cap by approving the city’s 2024 budget with a 2.7% tax increase.
The 5-0 vote by the council on Nov. 13 means the average taxpayer with a single-family home will pay an additional $68, or $5.65 per month, in city taxes next year.
Peekskill City Manager Matthew Alexander’s tentative 2024 budget recommended city officials break the state recommended 2% tax cap and raise taxes 3.5%.
Alexander also suggested the council look at successive years of higher percentage tax hikes ranging from 3.5% over a period of four or five years.
“This year’s rapidly rising costs, labor and supply chain shortages have stretched the city’s dollars to the limit,” Alexander stated. “Coming out of the pandemic, 2023 proved to be a year of rapidly changing expectations and circumstances.”
To balance the budget, the council approved utilizing $2.125 million from unassigned fund balance, leaving the city with more than $3 million for a rainy day. From 2019 to 2021, the city did not dip into its fund balance.
If the fund balance wasn’t used, City Comptroller Toni Tracy said residents would have been looking at a 14% tax hike.
In the $64.5 million spending plan, 32% is allocated for public safety (police, fire, building inspector) and 29% for employee benefits. The budget includes salary increases for staff as per union contract agreements, with a matching 2% increase for non-union staff. Personnel costs, including benefits, account for approximately two-thirds of expenses in the city’s general fund.
The council approved filling four vacant positions in the Police Department and two positions in the Fire Department.
Mayor Vivian McKenzie and Councilman Robert Scott did not attend the Nov. 13 meeting.
Outspoken resident Leesther Brown maintained the council should not have voted to increase its stipends and should not have voted to take action on the budget with McKenzie absent. The council had until Dec. 1 to approve a budget.
“That’s a really slick move,” Brown remarked. “The mayor should have been present. That’s absolutely wrong. It’s wrong, it’s wrong, it’s wrong.”
Rick has more than 40 years’ experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, running the gamut from politics and crime to sports and human interest. He has been an editor at Examiner Media since 2012. Read more from Rick’s editor-author bio here. Read Rick’s work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/pezzullo_rick-writer/