Cuomo Tax Program Frustrates Busti Officials

BUSTI – As the Busti Town Board discussed health insurance options for next year, frustrations over Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s property tax program began to surface.

According to the town board, the previous health insurance offered by the town is no longer available and rates have risen 30 percent with a drop in benefits. Essentially, as Richard Thor, Busti councilman, said, paying more for less.

“The governor is saying that we have a 2 percent, well actually one and a half (percent), tax cap. And now, with this new incentive with a zero property tax increase, what he is proposing, he wants us next year (to have) a plan in place where we are going to reduce total tax levy by 1 percent,” Thor said. “That tells all the government employees of the county, town and village that you aren’t going to see a 3-percent wage increase because the governor already told us we need to stay underneath 1 and a half percent tax cap, and save 1 percent beyond that.”

John Bentley, Lakewood-Busti Police chief, said the state and New York City doesn’t have to adhere to the cutback. Diana Peterson, recreational director, noted as benefits get cut back, the town will lose its employees. Jesse Robbins, Busti supervisor, said the town can’t do anything about the rising costs, and if it wants to keep the services it enjoys, the town will need to go over the 2 percent tax cap.

“The best thing that could happen is if every single municipality said, ‘Screw it, we’re not going to go with this law’ and adopt the 2 percent, and flush their plan down the toilet,” said Joel Seachrist, town attorney. “But you aren’t going to find people who do that. … We’ve already cut everything to the bone; now you are cutting into the bone.”

The town decided to table the issue and set up a meeting with a health insurance representative town employees can talk to as they figure out which plan to go with for the upcoming year.