Chatham 2020 town budget shows 5.4% tax decrease

CHATHAM – The Chatham Town Board has come up with a $3.1-million preliminary town budget for 2020 with a major decrease in taxes. The budget includes the general budget and the Highway Department. There are also funds for fire protection paid to several fire companies, lighting districts, and funds for library and North Chatham Fire District, which brings the total budget up to about $3.6 million.

The board still needs to hold a public hearing on the budget and accept it as the final budget in November, but the members have been reviewing the expenses and revenues at budget meetings all month. At their October 17 meeting they accepted the preliminary budget, which will be posted on the town’s website at www.chathamnewyork.us. That proposed budget shows an overall tax decrease of 5.41%.

In 2016 the Town Board announced that the town was $227,000 short in that year’s budget and cuts would have to be made. In a press release at the time the board said that part of the issue came from fund balances being used for expenses and so town reserve funds were low.

At the workshop last Thursday, Councilman Michael Richardson said that in 2016 the board needed to get out of the deficit and “back to zero” in the budget. The tax rate increases in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 budgets were still under the state-mandated tax cap but the increases were needed to cover the deficit and build up reserves. He said the board had replenished the reserves over the years and that this year there was a “surplus fund balance.”

Mr. Richardson said that at some point the taxpayers would be saying, “this is our money” and that the board should be giving it back to them. So in the preliminary budget, about $160,000 from the fund balance will be used to lower the tax rate.

Mr. Richardson, who is running for his seat on the board this November, said he talked to the town’s accountants at Pattison, Koskey, Howe & Bucci (PKH&B) briefly about the proposed budget numbers and was told their numbers are sound.

At the workshop meeting, Abi Mesick, who is running for a seat on the board, said, “It looks like you guys did a really good job on the budget.”

Donal Collins, who is running for Town Supervisor against current town Supervisor Maria Lull, also praised the board’s work on the budget. After reviewing the budget, Ms. Lull said, “You think about where we were where in 2016.”

The board will most likely hold a public hearing on the proposed budget November 7.

The board then held a regular meeting after the budget workshop, which included a review of more changes to the proposed zoning law. Ms. Lull said there was a letter from Peter Paden, executive director of the Columbia Land Conservancy, with suggestions for the zoning. She did not read the lengthy letter at the meeting but said it was available for the public to see.

The next regular board meeting is November 21 at 6 p.m. in the Town Hall.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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