LEWISBORO, N.Y. – The Lewisboro Town Board has delayed a vote on legislation that would allow it to supersede the state-imposed 2 percent property tax cap, after a public hearing Monday night in which some residents expressed outrage over the idea.
Dozens of Lewisboro residents crammed the Lewisboro Library for the public hearing portion of the Town Board meeting to voice their displeasure. Many said they were worried that such a move would be prelude to a significant tax hike.
Concern was heightened last week when Supervisor Peter Parsons presented his tentative budget, which if left unchanged, would result in an approximate 16 percent tax increase.
“I’ve lived here 35 years, and this is the most outrageous budget I’ve ever seen, considering the economic times we are living in,” said resident Bill Frank. “We pay the highest taxes in the country and we get very little for it. This will really hurt our real-estate values.”
Town Board members said the tentative budget and its proposed tax increase had not been fully reviewed by the board, and that more work still needed to be done. Board members also told the crowd that creating the law that would allow them to pierce the tax cap did not necessarily mean they were going to do it.
“We just got our hands on [the budget] and we are just starting to work on it,” said Deputy Superintendent Peter DeLucia. "I feel there is room in the budget for some cutting.”
Board members explained that they needed to have the law allowing them to pierce the tax cap in place in a timely fashion, or else there would be repercussions from Albany if the tax increase goes beyond 2 percent.
“We need to have this on the books in case we do [break the cap],” said council member Frank Kelly. “I’m in favor of a zero percent increase, but if we do go above the cap, we will get penalized. All funds that exceed the limit would go to the state, and they would control how those funds would be spent.”
DeLucia said that it was the board’s “fiduciary duty” to put in place the law that allows the budget to supersede the cap.
“We would be put in harm’s way if we didn’t, and I don’t want to see that happen,” he said.
Resident Richard Sklarin told the board that the town needed to find a way to increase revenue other than through taxes.
“We’ve limited targeted development on a long-term basis,” Sklarin said. “The town’s resistance to development has to be more realistic. The town has been keeping things together with spit and Scotch tape for the past 10 years. We have to address the long-term structure issues now.”
Some residents at the meeting said they believed the Board’s attempt to pass a law allowing them to break the cap implied that spending was out of control.
“I want to understand why you can’t live within your means,” resident Tricia Freeman said to the board. “If we can’t raise revenue, we have to find places to cut.”
Board member John Pappalardo tried to assure the audience, saying, "Passage of this local law should in no way be misconstrued that we plan to exceed the cap."
But resident Deana Pastore said such assurances didn’t matter.
“It’s like saying, 'I’m going to put this piece of cake here, but please don’t eat it,'” she said. “I don’t want to give you any cake.”
The board decided to wait until its next meeting on Dec. 3 before voting on the local law. Board members said it will give them more time to address budget cuts and still be able to submit the law to Albany in a timely manner, should it pass.