The Putnam Examiner

Putnam Valley 2020 Budget Exceeds Tax Cap

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By Neal Rentz

The Putnam Valley Town Board on Nov. 13 voted 4-1 to pass a 2020 budget that exceeds the state-mandated 2 percent property tax cap by almost 1 percent.

Supervisor Sam Oliverio voted against the budget because he said he wanted to restore salary increases of $5,000 each for two town employees who are managers, whom he declined to name.

Oliverio said four costs the town has no control over in next year’s budget include unemployment insurance, employee health insurance, workers’ compensation and liability insurance, which would have resulted in a 3.5 percent property tax hike. However, the Town Board made spending cuts elsewhere to bring the tax increase to 2.9 percent, instead.

“We cut back in town the best we could,” he said.

Prior to the vote, resident Patty Villanova spoke during the public budget hearing on the board’s intention to override the tax levy cap. She said the taxpayers “did send a message” on Election Day by defeating a proposition to let the Putnam Valley Library collect more tax dollars for programs and services.

Villanova said there is a concern among residents about taxes in town and that she wished the Town Board would not override the cap.

Oliverio said two town employees who are not part of a union deserve raises, which were deleted from the budget at a previous meeting.

“I’m pushing this because it is so important that we remunerate individuals who have taken on extra duties and whose work has just blossomed beyond what the title and the job should entail,” he said, adding that raises have been provided to other town employees in similar circumstances in the past.

“This is an issue of fairness,” he said.

However, Councilwoman Jacqueline Annabi said Town Counsel William Florence stated in an e-mail that to do what Oliverio was requesting would be illegal. But Oliverio replied that it is up to the Town Board to determine the base salaries for town employees who are managers.

Councilwoman Wendy Whetsel said the managers’ contracts could be voided to provide the salary increases sought by Oliverio for the two managers.

Oliverio said he asked the Town Board for the raises for the two managers last spring but was told by his colleagues to bring the issue up during the budget season.

SUBHEAD: Town Declines to Pave Horton Hollow

Also during last week’s meeting, Oliverio said the town will not move forward with paving Horton Hollow Road, due to objections expressed by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

A Class One wetland, which has the most restrictions to protect it, is located near the dirt road, and a trout stream is located adjacent to the road, according to Town Consulting Planner and Westlands Inspector Bruce Barber. He said the DEC is concerned about potential flooding of the area if the road is paved, potential runoff from the road, and the protection of endangered species in the area.

To allow the road to be paved, the DEC said the town would need to prove “a compelling economic or social need” to do so, said Barber.

Several residents said the road needs to be paved. One resident, who said she lived in the area for 15 years, said the road was better maintained 10 or 15 years ago. Another said the road regularly has potholes.

Oliverio said the town is not prepared to move forward with paving the road, which would entail about $2.3 million in construction costs. However, the town will grade it in the spring to lower it, he said.

While Oliverio said he agrees the road should be better maintained by the town, he does not want to spend any more money on the project when the DEC does not approve the concept without “a very important reason” to pave the road.

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