Trumansburg Connection: Rethinking taxes and opportunities

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Village of Trumansburg residents and Trumansburg Central School District stakeholders recently voted to approve 2019/2020 budgets, both with modest tax increases; 3.51 percent in the Village and 3.05 percent in the District. While the District increase seems like a large increase, it represents a nominal .027 percent increase in the total school budget for modernizing classrooms and technology, increasing instructional support, professional development, and increased funding for athletics and a full-time athletic director position.


School districts and municipalities struggle to meet mandates and offer opportunities without raising taxes. In a statement included in the 2019/2020 school budget proposal, BOE President Gary Astles noted, “The delicate balance between providing each student every advantage needed to not only succeed but excel, must be weighed against our community’s ability to pay for those programs. The Trumansburg Community has always placed a special value on the education of our children. The programs in this year’s proposed budget include not only the mandated necessities but also additional programs and opportunities that continue to make our school district a much sought-after place to live and educate our children.”


Kimberly Bell, District Superintendent adds, “It is important for the district to maintain a stable budget year to year, avoiding spikes in taxes for our community. At the same time, we feel it is equally important for us to deliver programs aligned with students’ interests, while also meeting state mandated outcomes. Fortunately, we have an amazing staff that works tirelessly to think differently about how to offer programs in alternative ways within the budgetary confines.”


The Village has also worked creatively to offer a minimal increase in taxes while facing increased costs, most notably payroll, which constitutes roughly 60 percent of the total budget. Per the new union contract, the DPW salary increased two percent, while other Village employees salaries increased three percent. No services to Village residents have been cut, and in fact, one could argue they were actually increased with the hiring of two full-time police officers, which posed a nominal budget increase due to state retirement benefits and health insurance.


In a thoughtful letter sent to Village residents, Mayor Rordan Hart discusses and urges residents to consider growth and opportunity in the future as a way to keep taxes stable.


“As June begins the Village of Trumansburg will be sending its annual property tax bills to all Village property owners, the culmination of a months-long budget process that led to the adoption of our 2019-2020 Village budget in April. Through sound fiscal management and the reworking of some of our large vehicle and equipment replacement cycles, we were able to fend off a large tax increase this year.


We use the term “fend off” because, in many respects, increasing taxes is unavoidable over time unless one of two things happens: Services are cut, or the tax base is expanded. There is no third option. Village Board members are sensitive to the impact of property tax increases to a household budget, however, we are not in favor of cutting services as all of the services provided by the Village fall into either the public safety or infrastructure categories. We don’t have non-essential “pork” spending at the Village level.


The handful of municipalities in Upstate NY that have seen their property tax rates remain stable have all seen one thing – growth. Growth in housing, growth in population, and even growth in geography. While it is certainly feasible to maintain desired services as an insular community with little growth, this will lead to large segments of the community, both longtime residents and would-be newcomers, from being priced out of our Village. It’s already happening. The math is inescapable.


Alternatively, we as a Village can maintain an open mind to ideas and proposals that have the potential for growth of the tax base. This is the true history of the Village. The Village did not stop growing after Abner Treman built his cabin, or after Hermon Camp built his mansion. The Village did not close its doors when country stores became family restaurants, or when large houses were built in a “swamp that nobody would want”. Indeed, the very history of the Village, the very character we claim to cherish is the direct result of growth and change.


While no Village Board can force growth, we are able to look for opportunities and attempt to think outside the proverbial box, with the long term viability of the Village as our focus. As the Village moves forward into a new budget year, we ask for your continued support in our mission of sustainability, and our mission to find ways to maintain the quality of life and quality of Village services that is a big part of why so many choose to call ‘Tremendousburg’ their home.”


When we think of taxes and budgets it’s easy to feel uneasy about how much, and on what, our money is being spent. Rarely do we equate taxes with growth and opportunity. Perhaps it’s time to rethink what we are willing to pay for in regard to our educational system and municipal services. By changing the context to direct the conversation from our personal wallets toward stability and even growth of services and opportunities, together we can offer a greater quality of life and education.

In brief:

T-burg Criterium Fundraiser, June 9
As a fundraiser for this year’s T-burg Crit, you are invited to BOWL FOR THE ROLL!


Enjoy FREE bowling at Atlas Bowl from 3 to 5 p.m., a kids bike clinic at 4 p.m., a silent auction, and volunteer sign-ups for race day. Kitchen opens at 4 p.m.!

Trumansburg Porch Fest, June 15
Come out and stroll the sweet village streets of Trumansburg while listening to over 40 bands play its lovely porches between noon and 5 p.m.


Come earlier or stay later to enjoy brunch, lunch, dinner, and shopping in one of our many local businesses! Free parking is available in the village municipal lot and on Main Street. (Please no parking on the village side streets.)


For more information, please visit tburgporchfest.com. The band schedule will be posted on our website with an interactive map.

Book Club Bar Crawl: June 25
Book Club Bar Crawl lives on for Adult Summer Reading Program! On June 25 the bar crawl book club are going to Atlas Bowl to discuss The Martian by Andy Weir.


The story follows an American astronaut and botanist, Mark Watney, as he becomes stranded alone on Mars in the year 2035 and must improvise in order to survive. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive.

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