Cape Vincent town taxes steady, spending cut back

There used to be a time when the interest rate you could earn on a safe investment was higher than the rate of inflation. (Dreamstime/TNS)

CAPE VINCENT — The town is keeping its property tax rate steady for 2021, at $0.67 per $1,000 of assessed value.

That means the owner of a $100,000 house will pay $67 in town taxes. In total, the town is expecting to raise $264,087 of its $2.4 million budget from property taxes.

Town Supervisor Edward P. Bender said both the 2020 and 2021 budgets have been tight, as the town has faced financial constraints that have only worsened during the coronavirus pandemic.

“As we were putting the budget together, in the time we’re in now, we were thinking, ‘Oh, we can’t do much extra above what we did this year,’” Mr. Bender said.

He said the town is anticipating many of its normal income lines, like sales tax and state support, will be much reduced this year. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he’s anticipating state support to local municipalities will drop by up to 20%.

Mr. Bender said the town is anticipating more cuts than that and has planned for a 40% drop in state support.

“I don’t think we even got our last payment from the state,” he said. “It’s not going to be very good when we do get it.”

For sales tax, the 2021 budget forecasts a 5.88% decrease in sales tax income from this year’s projected total. The town is expecting to raise $455,596 in sales tax for 2021, down from $484,100 for 2020.

To account for the drop in income, Mr. Bender said the town is cutting back on staffing and capital projects. Instead of the usual team of three people doing the town’s mowing, this coming summer will see only one staff member doing that work.

One of the largest cuts in the budget this year was for the Cape Vincent Ambulance Squad. The squad was revived from the brink of dissolving last year.

Where once they had too few EMTs to respond to a call, by November 2019, the squad was thriving with an additional 15 full- and part-time staff members, bucking a national trend of local ambulance squads disappearing.

The 2021 town budget cuts support for the ambulance squad by 50%, from $90,000 budgeted in 2020 to $45,000 for 2021.

Mr. Bender said while the town has had to cut back on support for the squad, they are actively working with an attorney to establish a billing system, which will allow them to bill patients’ insurance companies for their services.

“They’re just getting started on that,” he said. “It’s better than us doing the complete funding, because it was quite expensive.”

Also, the ongoing project on Club Street — to tear down an old house and replace it with bathrooms, showers and a new dock — is on pause for now.

“We’ve got a shovel-ready job there, and we can’t get any money from the state,” Mr. Bender said. “We’re supposed to get a grant from the state. We’ve done all our paperwork and we’re ready to go, but they haven’t come up with any money yet.”

The council also cut a $5,000 expense for the Cape Vincent Community Library in the 2021 budget. According to public meeting minutes of the Nov. 5 council meeting, where the budget was formally adopted, Councilman Alan Wood said the council assumed the library was closed, and thus did not require financial support.

Amy Pond, the director of the Cape Vincent Community Library, came forward at the Nov. 5 meeting to request the town reinstate its financial support for the library.

Ms. Pond informed the council the library is still operating, with curbside services, wireless internet available outside and job assistance for recently unemployed town residents.

Mr. Bender said the council is considering available options to extend more financial support to the library, although deliberations are still ongoing.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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