The view’s great for Copake budget

COPAKE—It may seem strange, but many taxpayers will get some good news when they receive their 2016 town tax bills at the end of the year.

At the October 8 Town Board meeting, Supervisor Jeff Nayer reported that many taxpayers can look forward to a .4% reduction in their tax rate next year.

While total spending will go up by .29% from $1,967,307 this year to $1,973,207 next year, the town has been able to offset it with a windfall in the form of a $3,289,219 increase in the town’s total taxable value just this year, thanks to the work of Town Assessor Craig Surprise.

Mr. Surprise has been working on a townwide revaluation since 2012. The process has involved data collection, site visits and the use of Pictometry.

Pictometry is the name of a company that says it “invented the technology behind aerial oblique image capture,” according to pictometry.com. The company provides “high-resolution aerial imagery and analytical tools for assessment, public safety, emergency response and overall visualization needs.”

With its “fleet of 73 aircraft, Pictometry has captured over 250 million… high-resolution images [that] are geo-referenced and viewable from five or more angles, allowing users to precisely measure height, distance, altitude and surface area directly on the images.”

In other words, with the periodically updated images obtained by fly-overs provided by Pictometry software, Mr. Surprise has been able to find millions of dollars worth of structural additions, swimming pools, even whole buildings that were not previously listed on the assessment roles and bring property tax records up to date.

Mr. Nayer said in a follow-up phone call this week that he expects the reval to be completed soon and notices of updated property assessments to be sent out in March or April of next year. The town’s total taxable value is now $452,338,201, he said.

The highway portion of the budget makes up the lion’s share with spending coming in at $1.15 million next year, an increase of 1.59% over this year’s total of $1.14 million.

But the total amount to be raised by taxes next year hangs steady at $1,129,855.82, the same as this year, said the supervisor.

Changes in revenue and budget adjustments have also contributed to keeping taxes under control.

Always budgeting for “the worst case scenario,” Mr. Nayer expects to see a $15,000 to $20,000 increase in the cost of medical insurance next year. Seven highway employees, the highway superintendent, the town clerk and two retirees all have coverage under the town’s plan, which includes high deductibles and a health reimbursement account (HRA).

The supervisor said he expects medical, dental, HRA and eyeglass insurance payments to reach $180,000 next year as compared to $164,583 this year.

“Medical insurance is killing everybody,” he said.

In other business at the Town Board meeting, the board noted the recent receipt of a draft of the zoning revisions document from the Land Use Review Committee.

The Town Board initially expected the 13-member committee to come back in one year with a finished document, which brings town zoning ordinances into line with the town Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2011.

But the committee experienced setbacks of various kinds, needed a secretary to record minutes, changed leadership and lost members. Finally, three years later, with just six members remaining, LURC Chairman Robert Haight, who also serves as chair of the town’s Planning Board, presented the draft document to the board, which now must review it and make it available to other boards, committees and the general public in order to collect feedback. Once the board deems the document ready, it still has to undergo review by the town attorney.

“Some things take longer than you think. It took a lot of very hard work,” Supervisor Nayer said by phone.

During the correspondence portion of the meeting, the board received a letter from Erin Robertson of Ancramdale, a member of the Ancram Conservation Advisory Council, noting that the town’s perennial scofflaw, Salvatore Cascino, is “filling land along Route 22 with construction debris.” Ms. Robertson said the land is listed on the national wetlands inventory and that Mr. Cascino is dumping piles upon piles containing bricks, concrete and pipes before periodically covering it with top soil.

The Columbia Paper ran a front page photo of Mr. Cascino’s latest mess in the October 1 issue. Mr. Cascino has been violating federal, state and town laws by illegally dumping, building and excavating for the last 17 years.

Ms. Robertson contends in her letter that Mr. Cascino is “building a berm to create a swale to change the flow of the water to dry out the field.” She wanted to know if anyone was documenting the work. “I’m another resident sick of this guy’s atrocities to our environment and nothing being done to stop him,” she concluded.

Mr. Nayer noted, “We’re aware of that and it is being monitored.”

The Town Board meets next Thursday, November 12 at 7 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email

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