Even though West New York residents were told in a public meeting last fall that taxes would rise due to the proposed $69.15 million budget, residents were surprised last week to get their estimated tax bills including the increase.
“Nobody knew that this was going to happen,” said a female West New York resident who asked not to be named. She added that she does not think that the town’s final budget will be passed without a fight from residents.
A tentative $69.15 million 2008-2009 budget was introduced at a public meeting in September. However, the town cannot pass a final budget until the town has final state aid numbers. Still, they had to send out estimated tax bills this month to collect money.
Some residents were confused last week because letters from Mayor Sal Vega sent with tax bills referred to the tax “levy” increasing by 27 percent. That does not, however, mean each resident’s bill will rise exactly 27 percent. The levy is the overall amount of taxes being collected for the budget; how much each resident pays depends on how many residents there are to share the burden. The tax rate is the more important number because it refers to the amount each person will pay per thousand dollars of property they own.
The budget covers spending from last July 1 through this June 30.
Spending has risen by $4.3 million, or 6 percent, since last year, an increase that comes from – according to town officials – rising contractual and mandatory costs such as employee salaries and benefits.
Without knowing the final state aid numbers, the town sent out tax bills based on estimates.
“Since our budget is not adopted, we sent out an estimated tax bill,” said John Mosca, a public accountant assisting West New York Chief Financial Officer Frederick Thompkins.
Mosca said that the bills needed to be sent out now so that the town has money.
“If we didn’t go out with the tax bill, we would have run out of cash,” he said.
Mosca said that the budget will probably be finalized some time in May – only a month before the next fiscal year begins.
When the budget was introduced last fall, residents had the opportunity to speak out on it, but not one resident spoke.
“The only increases that we recognize are contractural obligations on salary and wages, about 3.5 to 4 percent, and debt service,” said Mosca in November.
Last year’s overall property tax rate was $49.62 per $1,000 of property owned. That rate includes the city, county, and school rates added together. Since the final aid numbers are not in, the new tax rate has also not been determined.
Mosca said the next Board of Commissioners meeting will be held on Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.