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New Windsor passes budget package without tax increases

NEW WINDSOR - Despite previously considering raising the real property tax rate for next fiscal year, the New Windsor Town Council passed a Fiscal Year 2015 budget package at its Wednesday meeting that holds off on tax increases.

Council members unanimously passed a budget package that sets the town's general fund budget at $614,550. The general fund pays for a host of line items and departments, such as public works, public safety and parks. The town's enterprise fund budget, which pays for the town's water and sewer operations, will be set at $874,100.

No residents or council members made comments before the meeting at a public hearing on the budget package.

Although they considered tax increases earlier this year, council members held off on raising the real property tax rate. Council members are concerned with the town's two capital budgets - the general fund and enterprise capital budgets. Expenses in both budgets are projected to cost millions of dollars over several years, and the council has not started to raise revenues as of yet to pay for those costs. The two capital budgets pay for projects and equipment needs, not for operational costs.

In previous council meetings, members stated that tax increases could be on the horizon in FY16 to pay for the costs that are projected for the capital budgets.

For FY15, which starts July 1 and ends June 30, 2015, the general fund budget will be set at $66,000 and the enterprise capital budget will be set at $985,000. Most of the funding for the enterprise capital budget is slated to come from an expected U.S. Department of Agriculture loan to replace the town's two wastewater pumping stations.

This is despite the fact that the town's general and enterprise capital budgets are projected to have costs equaling almost $2 million and $6.8 million, respectively, over the next six years. Specifically, those budgets will pay state-mandated stormwater projects, road upgrades, town hall repairs, equipment and many other expenses the town has planned for.

Council members said at previous meetings that they wanted to wait until officials had a solid plan with accurate cost estimates to present a package to residents in FY16 that would justify a tax increase.

Previously, the Town Council had asked Schaeffer to look into what a nearly 10 cent per $100 real property tax rate increase would generate for the town. Such a tax increase would mean a homeowner with a property worth $200,000 would pay $620 per year rather than $423 per year under the current rate.

But the plan to start with tax increases this year was scrapped at a special meeting April 14, council members directed Town Manager Frank Schaeffer to craft a budget package for FY15 that contained no tax increases.

Under the budget package, the real property tax will remain at 21.15 cents per $100 of assessed value.

The enterprise fund is roughly 8 percent larger than last year's because residents' water and sewer base rates are set to rise. The base water rate will rise to $115 per quarter with a user rate of $3.24 per 1,000 gallons, and the base sewer rate will rise to $92 per quarter with $6.62 charged per 1,000 gallons.

Since FY12, water and sewer rates have risen to pay for a loan and the operational costs of the town's wastewater treatment plant, which became operational in April 2011. Council members set base rates to rise by $6 each year, and the usage rates to rise by five percent each year as well.

The budget package was passed unanimously. No residents or council members made comments on the budget at a public hearing before the meeting.

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