At Monday’s Newburgh City Council meeting, the council voted to hold a public hearing on a proposed local law that would potentially raise the tax limit. The hearing will be on November 12 and in conjunction with the hearing for the City Manager’s 2020 fiscal budget.
In addition, the council agreed to set a date for a special meeting prior to November 12 to discuss budget concerns. This meeting will be on November 6 at 7 p.m., and it will be open to the public.
“The city council members, myself, and the city comptroller, and our city manager are working diligently,” said Mayor Torrance Harvey. “To minimize layoffs, and to minimize and decrease what has been proposed for tax increases.”
During the meeting, City Manager Joe Donat presented updates on the budget. Donat and Comptroller Todd Venning believe that they have found a solution that will lower the current proposed tax levy.
It is suggested that the city’s tax overlay is removed from the budget. According to Donat, the tax overlay provides an additional safety net, and improves cash flow projection by estimating what the city actually plans to receive.
The proposed overlay was $1.3 million. If the overlay is removed, the proposed tax levy could go down from 20 percent to 13.5 percent. The proposed homestead tax increase could go down from 9.1 percent to 3.15 percent. The proposed non-homestead tax increase could go down from 18.07 percent to 11.63 percent.
In addition to the tax levy, residents worry about proposed cuts and layoffs to public safety in the proposed 2020 budget. The proposed budget suggests a 20 percent overall cut to overtime. It also proposes a 14 percent cut to the police workforce, and a 16 percent to fire personnel.
During the meeting, several residents spoke on the proposed budget.
One such resident is Ophra Wolf. Wolf owns three properties in the city and has personally renovated the properties with her partner. For one building, she is the landlord.
“Life here in Newburgh is hard,” emotionally said Wolf. “I’m working my ass off. I’m living on Dubois street and I’m doing more than just renovating a building on my own.” Wolf proceeded to speak about one of her properties and the connection she has to the community.
“That is a non-homestead building,” said Wolf. “I’m keeping the rents low. I’m providing the apartments to young people, some of whom have friends in the audience today. So, they can stay in Newburgh, because they grew up and were raised here.”
Wolf worries about how the council perceives citizens, and the quality of life in Newburgh. “So, I want to make sure that before you go further into these negotiations, that you’re really considering the economy of spirit here in Newburgh,” said Wolf. “What people like us bring that doesn’t have dollar signs attached to it.”
“The poverty in this city is by design,” finished Wolf. “It’s not by mistake.”