By ALVIN REINER
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Despite of rising costs for fuel, highway salt, pensions and insurance, the Town of Elizabethtown managed to keep its tax-levy increase at 3.5 percent for this year, which is within the state tax cap.
The allowable rate for Elizabethtown, as calculated by the New York State Comptroller’s Office, is 4.3 percent for this year.
“Our cap was higher than most towns because of the decrease in the tax levy in 2012,” Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley said.
The total town budget is $1,519,762, with $798,853 raised by the tax levy.
The Fire District budget is $111,533, which brings the total for all costs to $1,631,295 and the total amount to be raised by taxes to $910,381.
The tax levy is up $37,629 over 2012, and the Fire District budget is $4,200 over the current amount.
The Comptroller’s Office allows a total increase of $799,404 for the town; the budget is $551 under that.
The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value is up 29 cents from this year; the rate is $6.18 per $1,000 for 2013.
TAXABLE VALUE DOWN
“Elizabethtown’s tax cap is higher than most other towns because our levy dropped last year (by 6 percent),” Bartley said. “As a result of that decrease, there is a carry-over amount (of 1.5 percent) added to our tax cap from 2012.
“There is also an adjustment because our town’s total property values dropped by over a half million dollars this year.”
The taxable value of property in Elizabethtown declined from $152,273,565 to $151,333,153. That is attributed to the loss of Hubbard Hall, the sale of commercial property to nonprofits, reduced assessments on homes, lower prices for houses that have sold and property damaged by flooding.
Tax-exempt property in Elizabethtown is valued at a total of $46,096,600.
“Preparing the 2013 budget process was challenging, and our town is facing increases in the cost of heating and highway fuels, health insurance and employee pensions,” Bartley said.
The town had to pay a mandated 2 percent increase in State Retirement Fund contributions for its employees and an 11.8 percent increase in cost of health insurance.
Both of those expenses are beyond the control of the Town Council, Bartley said.
The salaries of elected officials have not been raised since 2009.
This year’s budget includes a $6,000 pay cut for the town supervisor. All Town Council members’ salaries remain the same as they have been since 2009, as did the town clerk’s salary.
The town’s justices, the highway superintendent and the hourly workers received a 2 percent salary increase.
“Our board members ... met three times and examined every line of the budget, looking for places to cut spending,” the supervisor said. “We were successful in reducing but not eliminating a number of items, and saved $38,475 over last year.
Cuts were made in funding several of the organizations that the town supports, including: $1,000 less for the library; $2,000, ambulance; $6,000, code enforcement; $5,000, unemployment insurance; and $6,000, golf-course equipment.
“More importantly, the board looked at ways to increase revenues, such as the possibility of a forest management plan for town-owned land,” Bartley said.
“The town board welcomes suggestions and ideas from residents on how to reduce spending in the coming year.”
Former Town Council member Ken Fenimore wrote several letters to the Press-Republican contesting budget figures and saying that the town stifled comment at public meetings.
Bartley has said in response that budget hearings not the proper place for long debates with citizens and that she will meet with anyone who has questions.
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