Busti Taxpayers To Pay More In 2018, While Town Supervisor Gets A Raise

Dear Busti taxpayers,

I regret to inform you that your 2018 local property taxes are going up again and your Town Supervisor just got a big pay raise too! As one of your Town Council members, I want to personally apologize for failing to stop the excessive tax hike and pay raise.

In October, the Town Supervisor delivered a preliminary budget that came in under the “2 percent” tax cap (good news) but also included a 50 percent pay raise for himself (not so good). The public, including myself, was thus led to believe 2018 Town property taxes would remain under the cap. However, after a sparsely attended public hearing with little newspaper coverage, many revisions to the 2018 budget followed. The Board managed to reduce the Supervisor’s pay raise from 50 percent to 33 percent. Most, but not all, of the other amendments were penciled in by the Supervisor, well after the budget hearing leaving no further public input and little time for Board debate. In the end, the Board voted 4-1 to override (again) the tax cap, passed a tax increase (again) of 6 percent and levied nearly $40,000 in higher taxes over the original budget.

Board members had the opportunity to make budget amendments that could have lowered Town property taxes in 2018, but most looked the other way and dutifully followed the Supervisor’s revisions. Here were four proposals that other Council members refused to act on:

1) Increase sales tax revenues by $15-20,000. The Board underestimated actual sales tax revenues by $12,000 in 2017 and $26,000 in 2016. The 2018 budget predicts sales tax revenues to fall $6000 under 2016 actual receipts. Does the Board honestly think 2018 receipts will be less than 2016?

2) Eliminate the $10,000 expenditure for building contingency funds considering the fact that the Town already has $50,000 in NYS grant funds sitting in reserves for capital improvements.

3) Save $4000 and cancel the 33 percent salary increase for the Town Supervisor.

4) Use a relatively small amount of $6-11,000 in additional unexpended fund balance to deliver a 2018 budget under the tax cap, as originally proposed by the Supervisor. Fund balance use in the past six budgets has ranged from $261,000 to $360,000, and 2018 would be no different.

By law, public schools can maintain in unexpended surplus funds up to 4 percent of total appropriations yearly. By policy, the County should maintain 10 percent, and Lakewood maintains far less. The NYS Comptroller states towns should maintain a “reasonable” amount. The Town of Busti has no policy and by the end of 2016, had surplus funds that ranged from 18-32 percent, much more than the Village, County or School. The Board raised taxes far over the cap despite healthy surplus funds, “unreasonable” in my mind.

And finally consider this, the County Legislature voted years ago to raise sales taxes in order to help reduce future property tax increases. This year they actually lowered your property taxes, only for the Busti Town Board to underestimate sales tax revenues, raise Town property taxes over the cap and essentially wipe out the County reduction. In 2018, not only will Busti taxpayers pay more in County sales taxes, but they also will pay more in property taxes too. At least Busti taxpayers can be comforted in knowing they now have one of the County’s highest paid Town Supervisors and their Town Board is well adept at overriding the tax cap.

By the time the next census comes out, how many more families and businesses will move away from this area?

With deep regret and sincere apologies,

Rudy Mueller,

Busti Town Council member