Pelham mayor says increasing taxes above cap will put village on solid footing post-pandemic

Village of Pelham Mayor Chance Mullen.

Village of Pelham Mayor Chance Mullen said his proposed $16.2 million budget—which exceeds the tax cap—will put the village on more stable financial footing in the coming fiscal year and includes funding to make the downtown a destination this summer.

Mullen released a tentative 2021-2022 budget last week with a 6.71% tax increase, which breaks through the 2.92% cap set by the state because revenues collected from downtown commuters and shoppers via parking meters and parking tickets dropped during 2020. Spending rises 2.25% in the proposed budget.

“It’s only a matter of time before our revenues return, our cash reserves are replenished and we emerge even more resilient than before,” he said. The “recovery budget” will give the Village of Pelham the stability it needs in order to push through the back half of the pandemic, as well as putting it on a path towards fiscal health, according to Mullen.

The mayor last week released a video describing how the numbers got to where they are and what they mean for Pelham’s taxpayers next year. “For the median homeowner, the amount over the cap is about $18.25 a month,” Mullen said.

“Beyond the basics, the budget also includes more investment in making sure our downtown is the place to be this summer,” Mullen said. “Our newly-formed Arts Council is looking at areas for beautification. They’re also working with the Chamber of Commerce and local nonprofits to plan outdoor events all summer long that can bring our community together in a Covid-safe way.”

Under state law, five of the seven Democrats on the village board must vote in favor of exceeding the cap. A public hearing on the budget will be held Tuesday (tonight) at 8 p.m. via Zoom.

“This coming year will be far more stable than the last one,” Mullen said in an interview. “Last spring, we had very little knowledge about what we were heading into or how long it might last. Now we know specifically how this pandemic hurts us and that makes it easier to adapt. We’ll still need to restrain spending but we can be more strategic in funding the things most important to us.”

He said the budget is not the problem, but the solution—and breaking the cap is the way to bring the village back to its flourishing state prior to Covid-19. 

Despite the difficulties, Mullen said he has high hopes for how the Village of Pelham will emerge out of this crisis.

“This is the year we plan to start construction on our landmark municipal center, which will include a new firehouse, police station and village hall,” he said. “This is being financed by (developer) Pelham House so it doesn’t show up in our operating budget. Pelham House is a critically important part of our recovery and an exciting bright spot in the year ahead.”

 “While the increase in our tax levy is frustrating, residents should be confident that we are moving in the right direction,” said Mullen. “If anyone has a question about the budget, please join” the public hearing.