Struggle to craft budgets that provide services to citizens while not forcing residents from their homes plays out in towns and villages across the state every year. Last week, a retired Rotterdam man put a face on the dilemma for town board members at their Oct. 25 meeting.
Giuseppe Santucci expressed dismay at next year's budget increase that would drive property taxes up by nearly 8 percent.
The Italian immigrant told of the many years of hard work that it took for him to buy the house he and his wife live in. Santucci said he and his wife spend a combined $1,000 every three months for medications out of his annual $14,500 Social Security income.
He lamented the annual increases in taxes that force senior citizens like him to face losing their homes because, after a while, they run out of extras to cut from their budget to make ends meet.
Santucci said he worked hard when he was younger and paid his taxes without complaint, but now he could not remain silent.
Guys like me spend our lives working like a dog to buy a house, and now I pay $1,500 a year for land tax, Santucci said. "Where did my money go? You don't care about the poor people."
Town Supervisor Steve Tommasone said the board is trying to do its best for all the residents of the town, adding that when the budget review process is finished, the actual tax increase will be likely be much lower than the current proposal.
"With certainty, I can say we'll be under 6 percent," Tommasone said. "My goal is to be under 6 percent. I'm hoping we can be under that, but we need to be responsible."
Tommasone said the town still has money left in the general fund balance that town governments usually reserve as a cushion to alleviate what might otherwise be extreme tax hikes in bad years. The supervisor said he has reduced the town's dependence on the fund balance to guard against future double-digit tax hikes that other nearby communities are experiencing this year.
"We're going to ensure that doesn't happen in Rotterdam," Tommasone said.
A public hearing on the 2007 tentative budget is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m. at the Rotterdam town hall on Sunrise Boulevard.""