By KIM SMITH DEDAM
---- — TUPPER LAKE — The preliminary town budget in Tupper Lake carries a levy that squeaked under the tax-cap allowance.
Final budget figures have not been approved by the Town Council, but the levy comes in at $1,362,506, according to the town bookkeeper Mary Sue Wolson.
The levy seeks a 2.97 percent increase over current spending and moves tax rates up about 3 cents per $1,000 of property value, Wolson said.
The tax-cap formula for 2014 allowed a total spending increase of $22,500. Tupper’s proposed budget carries a levy increase of $22,499.
Town Council members are slated to discuss and finalize the numbers at a special meeting at 4 p.m. today at the Town Hall.
The total 2014 proposed general budget for the Town of Tupper Lake budget is $1,487,332.
The undecided issue is whether to add $2,000 to the town supervisor’s salary, which is currently set at $16,400.
Outgoing Town Supervisor Roger Amell had asked for the increase, a request disputed by some residents at a public hearing.
The other concern at issue is a $4,000 stipend for Amell, who serves as town budget officer.
His salary is reported on the Empire Center’s SeeThroughNY website as $20,059 for 2013, up from $14,400 in 2011.
Salary increases for town employees mirror union contract agreements, allowing for a 2 percent raise, Wolson said.
There is no plan for pay raises to town councilors.
Few purchases are planned.
“We’re going to buy a new groomer for the cross-country ski trails, spending approximately $120,000,” the bookkeeper said.
“We don’t plan any big purchases in highway, though we are buying another piece of playground equipment for the Town Beach park at a cost of $5,000.”
The spending plan is bolstered by a rise in overall property value and a drop in health-insurance costs.
“We’re really being conservative,” Wolson said. “The assessment value has changed from 2013 to 2014, going up $1,937,327, so tax valuation has increased overall.”
Health and dental insurance costs went down, for both active members and retirees.
“The cost reduction works out to a couple thousand dollars a year for the town’s benefit, which helped reduce the amount to be raised in taxes. It was a bonus,” Wolson said.
A change in health-care coverage for retirees last year through Excellus saved Tupper Lake $45,000, Wolson said, without reducing benefits to retiree coverage.
And Tupper Lake has opted to amortize state pension contributions, which created a drop in the mandated payment for next year.
“It went down,” Wolson said. “Last February, we paid $69,000, and we are paying $65,000 this year. The state has said the pension contribution rate will go down in 2014-15.”
The town has to submit final budget figures to the state by Nov. 20.
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