Ghent meets tax cap despite health cost hike

GHENT–The Ghent Town Board held a public hearing and workshop on the proposed 2016 town budget last week and made plans to vote on the $1.9-million spending plan at the next regular meeting November 19.

At the Thursday, November 5 meeting, the board presented the proposed budget which calls for $747,487 to be raised by taxes, an increase of about a third of a percent compared to the current year’s tax levy of $739,357. The budget is available on the town’s website,, and at the Town Clerk’s Office.

Supervisor Mike Benvenuto said at the public hearing, which was attended by three residents and all the current board members, the proposal includes a $22,000 increase in the cost of medical benefits for the 15 fulltime town employees.

He also said that the Ghent Fire Company asked for an increase in the amount the company receives from the town. The town contributes $156,000 to the Ghent Fire Company, $110,000 to the West Ghent Volunteer Fire Company and $24,291 to the Chatham Fire Company for fire protection.

Mr. Benvenuto also told the residents at the meeting, “The Highway Department is a large portion of our budget.” According to the budget the department accounts for about $1.2 million of the total budget.

Resident Luis Castro told the board, “I was surprised it was a low budget.”

“We have to deal with the tax cap,” Mr. Benvenuto told him, referring to the state law that seeks to keep local municipal property tax rate increases below 2% per year. The actual limit varies from year to year. The proposed budget is online at town’s website,

Among those who did attend last Thursday’s hearing was Patti Matheney, who will join the board in January based on preliminary election night vote totals from the county Board of Elections.

After the board closed the public hearing, the board held a workshop to discuss the budget and reviewing the contracts with the fire companies. Members discussed issues with the West Ghent Fire Company, which has lost membership and is going through an audit, according to Mr. Benvenuto.

He said he had to remind the fire company to cash the check for funding from the town sent them earlier this 2015.

“If I give you a … $150,000 [check] and you don’t cash it, I assume you lost it or you don’t want it,” the supervisor said.

The new contract with the fire companies includes a requirement that the companies send confirmation to the town that all firefighters have adequate training. “There are basic things we should get from all the companies,” Mr. Benvenuto said.

The board will meet for the regular meeting Thursday, November 19 at 7 p.m. at the Ghent Town Hall on Route 66.

To contract reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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