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Pelham Residents Unhappy With Tax Cap Override

PELHAM, N.Y. – Residents of Pelham have taken to The Daily Pelham Facebook page to voice their displeasure over Mayor Ed Hotchkiss and the board of trustees authorizing a law to override the New York State mandated 2.3 percent tax cap during Tuesday night’s meeting. The revised tax levy of the nearly $13 million dollar budget is currently $10,038,058, a 3.77 percent increase from the 2011-12 budget.

“Our taxes keep on going up,” said Michelle Parella Boyle on Facebook. “How much higher can they go up! This mayor and board of trustees is really the worst that we have ever had.”

Hotchkiss and the board say that the “big story” of the 2012-13 budget is the pensions for the fire and police department employees plus other village staff, which is more than $1.4 million of the budget.

“We thought last year we would have the maximum of pension contributions,” Hotchkiss said. “This year, much to maybe our surprise, they actually went up. We didn’t think they could go up because that was historically high.”

The pension contributions increased from 21 percent for police and fire to 25 percent, while they also increased from 16 percent for all other employees to 18.6 percent.

Dave Garufi said it was “ridiculous” that the board was going to be overriding the tax cap and that they must “make more cuts.”

Boyle added that the village government should “cut out all unnecessary spending and concentrate on what we need! We need a mayor and trustees who can understand our priorities.”

However, the mayor and board said at Tuesday’s meeting that they do not plan on making any drastic cuts, nor did Hotchkiss want to reduce taxes by borrowing money from the general fund to support the budget. Both he and the board said they would like that fund to “build up because it is on the lower end of acceptable right now.”

“We also wanted to maintain services here,” Hotchkiss said. “We felt that we definitely did not want to reduce the police or fire presence and that with our DPW staff it’s really at a minimum. We have nine people and one of them is a mechanic who takes care of the whole village. So there’s no way that we felt that it would be proper to reduce our staffing at all given the circumstances.”

The board will be vote on adopting the 2012-13 preliminary budget on Tuesday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m. in village hall. Under New York State law, the budget must be adopted on or before May 1.

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