Pomfret board reluctantly schedules public hearing

A public hearing to override the New York state property tax cap for next year’s budget was scheduled by the town of Pomfret during a recent meeting, but was approved by a slim margin.

Councilmembers David Penharlow and Ann Eckman cast “nay” votes on the measure to hold the public hearing, which is set to take place on Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. Councilmembers Patricia Lynch Christina and Scott Johnston and Supervisor Donald Steger voted to approve it.

“I still don’t like the idea of acting on that before you have the first budget hearing,” Penharlow said. “You know, let’s have a discussion of the budget before we vote to exceed the cap. It’s August and we have time to have some preliminary discussions. I’d like to have a view of it before we vote to exceed the cap.”

This is the third year in a row for the property tax cap measure. Town Attorney Jeffrey Passafaro said this year, the tax cap will be lower than the 2 percent it used to be.

“That’s according to what we’re hearing out of Albany,” he said. “The sooner you enact (the law), the better. It’s only if you need it. If you bring your budget in underneath, great. If you don’t, it’s a safe harbor and no penalties (will be incurred). This is strictly preventative, that’s all.”

Passafaro also reminded board members they were voting solely on the public hearing and not the law itself.

Eckman said while she agrees it is necessary to have the override in place, she appreciated Penharlow’s thought process regarding the timing of the matter.

“If it’s not there, then we have to work very hard. But, the problem is there’s so much that’s out of our control and I’m … thinking about public hearings for Phase II (of the water district) and all those budget meetings. It’s good to have it there because if it isn’t, we will potentially be cutting needed services because we don’t have the ability to exceed that.”

Steger said acting on the override sooner rather than later is “intelligent and preemptive” so the town does not incur penalties if the tax cap is exceeded.

Also during the meeting, the board scheduled a second public hearing for a local law regarding a cross-connection backflow prevention system with the village of Fredonia. The public hearing, which was unanimously approved, will occur at 6:15 p.m. on Sept. 11.

Steger said enacting a law to approve the system is required by the Chautauqua County Health Department, the Department of Environmental Conservation and contractual provisions with the village for the water district.

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