Mayor's Column - Where do my Village taxes go?
February 22, 2018
I hear that question pretty regularly. Prior to the start of my public service, I wondered it myself and had only the vaguest notions of how our tax money was divided and used. After all, reading that “this year’s budget included $2,482,093 of general fund appropriations” doesn’t really bring it home...
I hear that question pretty regularly. Prior to the start of my public service, I wondered it myself and had only the vaguest notions of how our tax money was divided and used. After all, reading that “this year’s budget included $2,482,093 of general fund appropriations” doesn’t really bring it home.
On the other hand, scouring the 640 itemized rows of numbers known as our Village Budget may technically answer the question, but does not address the spirit in which it is usually asked.
So, with the help of my colleagues at the village, I’ve put together a different way of answering the question: “Where Do My Tax Dollars Go?”. I hope this helps!
What Does $100 Buy?
If you own a median-priced home in Perry it’s assessed at about $78,000, and you pay $1200 per year in village taxes. That’s convenient - Mr. and Mrs. Median Homeowner therefore pay $100 per month to support the services of the village.
Regardless of whether you happen to be Mr. or Mrs. Median Homeowner, for every $100 you pay in village taxes, over $90 of it is spent on six things: Public Works, Law & Order, Parks & Recreation, Emergency Services, Insurance and the Administration/Management of them all. Here’s how it breaks down:
Public Works: For $32/month...
- Your streets are plowed, paved, patched, swept, striped, signed and trimmed at intersections, catch basins and curb boxes are replaced, and the village assists property owners via sidewalk plowing (and resultant lawn repair)
- Your brush and leaves are regularly picked up, snow piles removed, trees trimmed, removed and replaced.
- Your sidewalk replacement costs are shared by the village if you participate in the Sidewalk Express program, street-tree-heaved sections are replaced when reported, and annual replacement work is undertaken on the most needy sections.
- Municipal buildings, property and equipment are regularly maintained and kept in good repair.
- There are always special projects (like the Splash Park, or portions of village storm drainage improvements), emergency response efforts (like frozen waterlines or flood repair), and utilities coordination with new and expanding businesses (like East Hill Creamery or Creative Foods).
Law & Order (Police and Courts): For $28.40/month...
- Your streets are patrolled by 4 full-time plus part-time officers. Each month on average, 300 calls are received, 100 summons issued, and about 12 arrests made (about two are felonies, the rest misdemeanors). About $500/month of stolen property is recovered.
- Nightly patrols include business and locked-door checks.
- Your needs, anxieties and complaints are addressed - for example each month averages 10 harassment calls, 10 animal complaints, 10 suspicious person calls and15 lockouts. And your officers also assist other agencies and are usually the first to arrive on scene - this happens roughly 35 times each month.
- Your special events are given extra support, such as parades, festivals, 5K’s, and holidays.
- A safe speed limit is enforced
Management: For $12.60/month..
- Day-to-day oversight of staff, projects, budget, bills.
- Your calls, concerns and visits are handled, routed and addressed, financial, tax and budget matters are reviewed, collected and prepared. This year, a new village website was launched.
- +/- 22 employees managed, including payroll, benefits, and support.
Parks & Recreation: For $6.80/month...
- Your Village Park, Barney Kalisz Park, Memorial Park and the Village Beach are maintained. This includes ball field maintenance, tennis and basketball courts, track, pavilions, skate cabin, bathrooms and overall property.
- Your splash park is operated, supported and maintained.
- Your summer recreation, soccer and tennis programs are supported.
- Your senior programs are supported.
- Flower baskets and planters downtown are provided and maintained; seasonal decorations, lights and banners are hung, and weed control is taken care of.
- Your community festivals, tournaments and events are supported and assisted.
Emergency Services: For $6/month... Your remarkable volunteer fire department is sheltered, equipped, supported and maintained with a variety of trucks and gear, in order to respond effectively and safely to emergencies including fires, accidents, carbon monoxide or hazardous materials scares, extrications, flooded basements, and more, all with an average en route time of under 3 minutes. (Ambulance service is currently being reconstituted under the Town and supported with Town taxes.)
Insurance: For $5/month... The other $95/month of your tax dollars are protected against lawsuits and accidents.
Zoning: For $2.25/month... Your Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals are supported by a part-time officer, who also helps enforce your laws, along with a part-time property maintenance officer and a zoning clerk. Your zoning law is being updated (otherwise this category will cost less). Legal help is also involved.
Street Lights: For $2.10/month... Your village streets are lit at night.
Engineering & Grant-Writing: For $1.50/month... Your village infrastructure and DPW is supported through reports, designs, and construction drawings that are prepared by engineering consultants, and often covered in part by funding secured by a grant-writer.
Computer Support/Systems: For $0.90/month... Back-up and maintenance, encryption, security service, website, email, hardware, software and support are provided for all village data including police and courts.
Village Hall: For .80/month... Your Village Hall is maintained, repaired, electrified, heated and cooled.
Audits: For .75/month... An outside auditor annually reviews all the books, transactions, and revenue for signs of fraud, discrepancies, or accounting errors. This includes court audits that involve sending verification letters to those who have paid fines.
Village Board Stipends: For .50/month... Your Village Trustees, Deputy Mayor and Mayor oversee all this, help develop and review policy and annual budgets, plan for the future, and respond to citizen concerns. As mayor I attend 15-20 meetings each month and your trustees each attend 5-10, including regular and special meetings of the board, committees, negotiations, reviewing of vouchers for payment, and managerial, employment or legal matters.
Communication/Notices: For .40/month... You are provided with information about your village; legal notices about the actions of village/planning/zoning boards; regular advertising to raise awareness of important village laws, planned projects, services, policies and dates.
So, those are the facts, in simplified form. (For example, water and sewer costs are paid for out of user fees and thus not reflected here. Also, there are some other revenue sources other than property taxes). I hope this helps you better understand what our tax dollars buy and give insight into the relative costs and benefits of living in the village.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that your village tax rate is 4% lower now than it was in 2010. For context, other villages in our county have seen their rates increase between 6% and 27% during that time; while the county tax rate has had to increase 19% since 2014. As I mentioned in last month’s “state of the village”, your board has focused investments on infrastructure, growing our tax base, and efforts to restore population. All while continuing a policy of a flat or declining tax rate. The goal? A vibrant, well-managed, fiscally sustainable village that can continue to provide a high level of services, while keeping our village taxes in line.
Many of us just received preliminary assessments from the Town Assessor. She operates independently of the village, town, school or county. I’d say her challenging job is to calibrate property values with actual market value. So by all means sit down with the assessor to discuss your assessment (I do). But if the town assessor and/or grievance board concludes that properties’ values are going up (a good thing) because of demonstrated investment, demand, and the market, please know that will simply allow us at the village to lower the tax rate some more, and still take in the revenue needed to keep up all these services. That’s been the practice of your village board, and it’s also my pledge.
-by Rick Hauser, Mayor