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SF residents will have to brace for big tax hike in 2018 as board passes budget

In an ironic twist of fate, Seneca Falls residents learned that their taxes would nearly double, simultaneously, as Seneca Meadows served the Town – renewing an  Article 78 proceeding.

Resuming the Article 78 won’t cost Seneca Falls any money in the short-term, but as Town Attorney David Foster pointed out – it becomes difficult to plan on host agreement dollars when litigation is active.

On Monday, Town Councilor Dave DeLelys made a motion to accept 75 percent of the landfill revenue for the 2018 budget. After learning about the litigation – there wasn’t a single member of the board willing to gamble that all of the money owed to Seneca Falls via the host agreement would make it to the Town’s accounts.

Of course, if the board were to plan 2018 with landfill revenue that didn’t ultimately make it — the consequences would not be immediate. If the landfill money stopped coming to the Town for a period of months, or longer, the Town would be forced to dip into the operating budget to make payroll, and handle all of their obligations.

“I cannot, in good conscience say ‘We’re good, we’ll be O-K’,” explained Foster, pointing out that dipping into the operating budget would only last for so long. Furthermore, doing so would impact the Town’s credit rating, which can play a big role in the community’s ability to bond on projects moving forward.

DeLelys proposed an amendment to rely on none of the landfill revenue, which was seconded, and prompted a number of questions. In what looked like complete uncertainty, the board wrestled with the prospect of doubling the taxes.

The board voted unanimously to embrace the change.

Next up on the docket for debate was whether to use the amended budget, which included modifications and requests from department heads – or an alternative with none of those modifications.

With exception of Councilor Lou Ferrara, the board voted 4-1 to accept the amended budget, with the background of utilizing no landfill revenue.

“Maybe this will play out in short order and we’ll be able to make some adjustments next year,” added DeLelys. “In reality it’s $12 a week. It isn’t that much.”

He admitted that, like many Seneca Falls residents, he is on a fixed income and will need to ‘tighten his belt’ moving forward. “I feel bad for people, but this is the right thing to do,” he continued, referring to the action in utilizing no landfill revenue in the 2018 budget.

“Don’t rely on something that isn’t guaranteed,” added Foster while explaining the process of how the board got where they were on Thursday. He said using money that isn’t guaranteed would be a ‘fiscally irresponsible’ thing to do on Monday, and advised that being ‘conservative’ was his role when giving the board advice on how to proceed.

What does this mean for Seneca Falls residents?

It means taxes will increase. Significantly.

While the numbers would not play out precisely as provided on the spreadsheet given to media before the meeting, due to some modifications to spending in 2018 and individual requests – the board approved a rough double-to-triple of the tax levy.

The new 9.23 percent tax rate means a significant increase for homeowners.

Senior Accountant Bev Warfel said at the conclusion of the meeting that these figures would be slightly reduced due to individual removals from the amended budget.

FingerLakes1.com will have more from Seneca Falls, on the budget, as well as the prospect of new litigation. Check back on Sunday for an in-depth story on the Article 78 filed by Seneca Meadows.

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