Town tax increase spurs board debate

 

Board splits on 2.1 percent increase

The Granville Town Board has agreed on a tentative budget that contains a 2.1 percent tax increase, something one member said the people can’t afford.

Board member Beverly Tatko voted last Wednesday against the tentative budget, which was approved by Supervisor Rodger Hurley and board members Mary Emery, Matt Rathbun and Gary Gutowski.

The public hearing for the $1.838 million budget will be held before the next Town Board meeting Nov. 12 and could be passed by the board that night.

The increase would mean an additional cost of $13 to $15 on a $100,000 home, budget officer Joel Carpenter said

“I believe this is a year we must not raise taxes,” Tatko said. “I’ve never seen anything like this and I personally can’t ask for another penny from people.”

Tatko said she knew people were having to sell their homes and were “really hurting.”

Tatko praised the work done in the Granville School District, noting its efforts had dropped school taxes. She asked if there was any spending that could come out of the budget to produce a zero-increase.

Carpenter said at least $35,000 would have to come out of the budget to render a zero- increase plan.

“I don’t think at this time anyone expects a zero,” Gutowski said.

“Well I do,” Tatko said.

“And I don’t,” Gutowski said.

“Well, I guess we’ve got a difference of opinion,” Tatko said.

Highway superintendent John Tanner said he believed his portion of the budget was “pretty conservative.” Although CHIPS highway funding from the state remained stable over the past three years Tanner and Hurley both warned it might not remain that way and could drop. CHIPS funding is often used to pay for paving projects

The tentative budget includes funding for a down payment on a new tandem axle truck for the highway department, something Tanner said was badly needed and would cost more if put off. Tanner said he budgeted to pay off the trucks within three years. Asphalt was a commodity he already felt short on; at the current rate of repaving he said it would take more than 20 years to resurface the 50 miles of roads in the town.

“And by that time they’re gone and they’re going to cost more to bring back,” he said.

The budget also contains 3 cents per $1,000 in fire coverage funding. Asked after the meeting if they were satisfied with the increase over the 4 cents requested, Fire Chiefs Milt Dunbar, Scott McCullen and Ryan Pedone said they were, considering the economic times.

Tatko said she supported taking money from fund balances to eliminate the tax increase. Rathbun said disagreed and did not think taking funds from the reserves was a good idea given uncertain times and wild cards such as the severity and costs of the winter.

Tanner said his budget contained contingencies that helped the town deal with especially harsh winters or surging fuel costs that could not be predicted.

“Ask me in May and I’ll tell you how the winter was,” Tanner said.

Rathbun said although he actually thought the same time last year was worse as far as the economy went, “I’d like to put more money away for a rainy day.”

If taking money from the fund balances was not a good strategy, Tatko said, she supports whittling down the budget and making cuts.

Comparing the town to a business, Tatko said she did not think the budget should increase every year. No business, she said, could continue to spend money without having money.

She asked the board where the town would go if it could not get enough money.

“It goes back on the taxpayers,” Gutowski said.

Hurley asked if members were ready to vote on the tentative budget and the motion was made by Gutowski, seconded by Rathbun.

“I don’t think that we’re asking too much; I’m sorry,” Gutowski said before the measure passed.

“I can’t go with zero; sorry Bev,” Emery said.

The measure passed 4-1, with Tatko voting in opposition.

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