Early in the hour-long public hearing on October 18 on the Town of Plattekill’s local law to exceed the state-mandated 2.0 percent tax cap, Supervisor Jennifer Salemo made it clear that the Town Board wouldn’t saddle town residents with a 10.3 percent tax increase as proposed in the 2024 tentative budget.
“I’m very confident it’s not going to be 10 percent,” Salemo said. “Will we come under the tax cap? Probably not. It’s most likely going to be an increase. It could be a little bit of an increase.”
In the face of questioning by Michael Lembo, a Democratic candidate for supervisor, and a handful of other town residents, Salemo said the Town Board will reduce the proposed double-digit tax increase by slashing requests for increased funding from town department heads.
“I know those numbers are scary to look at for all of us,” Salemo said. “We all don’t like those numbers, but today things are very rough and very expensive. But we are not trying to cut everything because we also have to allow for services to happen and take place.”
The amount to be raised by taxes in the 2024 tentative budget is $4,669,574, an increase of $436,091 over the 2023 tax levy of $4,233,483.
The biggest increases are proposed in the town highway department (14.1 percent) and the general fund (13.2 percent).
A year ago, the town’s adopted budget included a slight 1.2 percent increase in the tax levy.
Lembo questioned the budgeting process over the last several years.
“Maybe if taxes would have gone up a little bit every year, we could have kept ahead of this thing,” Lembo said. “Now there’s a big jump. Yes, everything has gone up, but now what’s going to happen is the taxpayers are going to take this hit. This is going to affect people’s mortgages and everything else. It’s hard, particularly with people on fixed incomes.”
Councilman Wilfrido Castillo Jr. reminded the audience that board members all own homes and also have to pay taxes.
“Our taxes go up too,” Castillo said. “It’s not like we got a free ride here. We look at every penny.”
Councilman James Fazio said taxpayers might feel better if they checked with Town Assessor Tricia Masterson to see what the rise in taxes would cost them on their next tax bill.
“After talking to the assessor, I didn’t feel that bad,” Fazio said. “Because when she showed me what it would go up, I’m like, ‘I can deal with that.’”
Councilman Dean DePew Sr., who is running for supervisor on the Republican and Conservative party lines in the November 7 election, said board members were as frustrated as anyone about rising taxes.
“We’re really trying to do our best to do what we can with the budget,” DePew said. “I retired and went back to work three months later. I actually have three different jobs in my retirement to try to stay alive. It used to be years ago if somebody made $50,000 a year, they were doing pretty darn good. Today, that does not pay the bills. That doesn’t even pay the rent.”
The board will keep the public hearing on the local law to exceed the tax cap open through the next regularly scheduled board meeting on November 1. The public hearing on the budget will take place at 7 p.m. on November 8.