KEESEVILLE — Citing necessary spending, the Village Board is pushing for higher taxes, while the mayor wants to keep the rate down in the proposed 2007 budget.Village Trustee Bradley Knapp notes that Mayor Mark Whitney has tried to keep the budget increase down to 2 percent each year."The problem with that is that after a period of time you don't want to end up like the City of Plattsburgh with a 15- or 25-percent increase," Knapp said.The Village Board members added to the mayor's initial proposal during their recent budget sessions, resulting in an 11-percent increase to the tax levy, which is the amount to be raised by taxes.The levy is $380,525 in the new budget, Knapp said, compared to $341,339 in the current spending plan.The tax rate is up 7.26 percent. The proposed tax rate is $8.04 per $1,000 of assessed property value, up from $7.50 per thousand now.An average property owner, with a house assessed at $70,000, would pay $563.14 in taxes, up $38.14 over the current amount.
While elected officials took no pay raises, other costs do look to go up."The increases, I think, are justified," said Knapp.The village's health-insurance cost rose 10 percent.Additionally, the Water District rate is going up 7 percent, or $21 a year."The price of propane has gone up, the price of chemicals has gone up, and we've been updating the piping and (parts) in the Water Filtration Plant so we get better water," Knapp said.The supervisor of public works would get a 16-percent raise and other employees, 3 percent.
Over at the two-story Civic Center, which houses Village Offices, firewood has always been a cost."They've been purchasing green wood," Knapp asserted.He warns that this wood doesn't burn as efficiently as dry wood, so he wants to purchase a two-year supply."If you get ahead now, every year you'll be ahead, and the (cost) will go down."The budget sets aside an additional $10,000 for purchasing firewood, at Knapp's request. Whitney had suggested an extra $5,000 per year to build the supply.An additional $5,000 is earmarked to repair the public bathrooms in the building.Plans last year hit a roadblock when Whitney said there wasn't enough money in the budget because of other projects.The four urinals in the downstairs men's room have been boarded up with plywood, piping is disconnected from broken toilets, bathroom stall doors are locked from the inside and broken sinks are covered with trash bags and duct tape.
Since the tentative budget has been prepared for public viewing, Whitney says he's had time to "mull over it.""The board and I disagree on the budget," he said. "They said, 'Well, we just have to bite the bullet', and I said no."In e-mail and telephone conversations Sunday, he laid out a three-step proposal to lower the tax-rate increase from 7.26 percent to .7 percent.First, some of Whitney's duties as village manager could be shifted amongst the board members, "thereby cutting the mayor's compensation in half and increasing the involvement of the village trustees in the operations of the village," Whitney wrote.A second cut would be the health-insurance buyback option for elected officials, which is budgeted at $7,800 total."This is a perk that I believe few of the voters know about," he said.Finally, Whitney would cut Knapp's firewood request to build a stockpile over two years at an additional cost of $5,000 per year.
The public can voice their opinion on the tentative budget at 6:30 tonight at the Civic Center. The budget hearing will be followed by the regular meeting of the Village Board and possible acceptance of the budget.The budget is available for viewing at the village office.