Town Board Sets Public Hearing on Tax-Cap Override

Bedford tackles dollars-and-cents issues on a scale both large and small.

Caught between a state fiat that bluntly caps property taxes and a sour national economy that sharply curtails other revenue, Bedford officials moved Tuesday to address both situations.

In actions big and small, the town board took the requisite first step to ignore Albany’s curb on property tax increases and to penalize tardiness on water bills. It also discovered unexpected new revenue, again in amounts big as well as “every-penny-counts” small.

Carrying by far the biggest potential impact on Bedford’s bottom line, the property-tax cap limits increases in that levy to 2 percent in any given year. But a loophole allows the town to easily skirt the limit with a local law.

With three votes—the same number needed to adopt a budget—the board can enact a local law allowing for a levy next year that exceeds the cap. First, however, the board must hold a public hearing on the proposed law, an action the board put in motion Tuesday. It set Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. to hear residents’ views on bypassing Albany’s restrictions on spending, including outlays mandated by the state.

That hearing could be contentious, unlike Tuesday’s scheduled airing of a proposal to penalize late payments on a water bill. No one spoke before the board voted, 4-0, to encourage prompt remittance. Late payers will face a 5 percent charge after a month and 1 percent every month thereafter, until the water fee is added to a homeowner’s property-tax bill, when a 10 percent penalty would be added. “It’s meant to encourage on-time bill payments, not to raise revenue,” Supervisor Lee V.A. Roberts said.

Still, the town’s chief executive is not averse to collecting a few extra dollars, in amounts large and small. “Every penny counts, especially these days,” she said Wednesday, a day after Public Works Commissioner Kevin Winn and Police Chief William Hayes delivered good fiscal news.

Winn told the board Tuesday that savings at Bedford’s new water-filtration plant, bonded at $22 million and now under construction on Route 35, will return almost $145,000 to the town treasury. Spending in the latest phase of building, budgeted at almost $200,000, came in at barely more than $50,000, accounting for the windfall.

In the smaller-dollar category, the sale of five old rifles taking up space in police headquarters, brought in $750, Hayes reported. He said the sale, to a licensed arms dealer, was intended to dispose of unneeded gear, not bail out the town financially.

Still, as the supervisor says, every penny counts.

Four retain seats on town panels

The town board unanimously reappointed Tom McGrath to a three-year term as chairman of the Blue Mountain Housing Development Corp. and Bedford Town Housing Agency.

Renamed to three-year terms on the Bedford Communications Commission were Gary Schwartz and Mark Jeffers while Jeff Carpenter was reappointed to a five-year term on the Tree Advisory Board.

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