Proposed Carmel Budget Would Exceed Tax Cap

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Carmel Supervisor Kenneth Schmitt has released his proposed 2014 budget, which would increase property taxes well above the state tax cap of 1.66 percent.

At the Oct. 2 town board meeting, Schmitt proposed at $24.95 million general and highway spending plan that includes a tax rate increase of 4.7 percent. Taxes on a home assessed at $216,800 would rise by $76 next year and spending would rise by 4.4 percent over the current year.

Property taxes rose by 7.9 percent in the 2013 budget.

Schmitt said he understood his budget would include a tax hike above the tax cap, but it could not be avoided. “It was impossible to do that,” he said.

“Since 2009, all municipal budgets have been battered by the great recession,” Schmitt said. “I know every elected official has received the same message and feedback from their residents and taxpayers. The message is to better manage costs, control spending and provide quality town services at a reasonable cost to all citizens and taxpayers. I along with the town board heard your message clearly and have taken steps, and will continue to take steps to further cut operating costs and reducing spending while continuing to deliver town services in an efficient and effective manner. We must continue to demand fiscal discipline at all levels of government.”

Schmitt said he was not seeking to use any fund balance in next year’s budget. In fact, Schmitt is proposing to add $200,000 into the fund balance n 2014.

The financial rating agency Moody’s has maintained the town’s AA-1 bond rating to keep borrowing costs low, Schmitt said. But the company also kept the town’s “negative outlook” because of “deteriorating fund balances and reserve levels.” In response, Schmitt said he is seeking to add $200,000 to the fund balance.

Schmitt’s budget includes no proposed layoffs and he is proposing to appropriate $100,000 to the highway fund for equipment purchases in the future.

Town Comptroller Mary Ann Maxwell said under exemptions allowed by the state, the town could have raised property taxes by 1.97 percent to be considered to keep within the tax cap.

Maxwell said employee salaries and benefits make up about 76 percent of spending in the general/highway budget being proposed by the supervisor.

There are a series of “budget drivers,” Maxwell said. Employee health insurance is expected to rise by between 4 and 6 percent next year; state workers compensation rates are expected to go yup by between 10 and 15 percent in 2014 next year; and “Obamacare” requirements will cost Carmel $30,870, she said.

Maxwell said town taxes make up 14 percent of the property tax bill for residents who live in the Carmel School District and 11 percent for town residents who reside in the Mahopac School District.

The town board is scheduled to discuss the budget later this month and will hold a public hearing in November. The deadline to approve the town budget is Nov. 20.

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