Town calls for minimal tax increase

D espite a projected increase in appropriations and a decrease in revenues from sources other than taxes, the Town of Whitehall has proposed a spending plan that calls for almost no increase in taxes.

The $1 million budget calls for a 0.12 percent increase in the tax rate, meaning local property owners can expect to pay $1 more on a property assessed for $100,000 than they did last year.

The tax rate is projected to increase from $5.41 per thousand of assessed value to $5.42 meaning property owners can expect to pay $542 on a property assessed for $100,000.

Although the preliminary budget has been approved by the board, Supervisor George Armstrong said ongoing negotiations with the town’s highway union could push the final numbers up. He doesn’t expect it to have a significant impact on the budget.

The town did agree to a pay raise for its budget officer, town clerk and highway superintendent. The budget officer and town clerk will each receive a 2 percent increase while the highway superintendent will receive a 3 percent increase.

After its first budget workshop, the board was looking at a 1.62 percent increase compared to last year’s spending plan, but officials were able to make an additional $13,015 in cuts.

The board was able to realize those savings by cutting a total of $6,200 from the town’s general fund, primarily by reducing the amount of money in the building fund.

It also cut $6,815 from the townwide highway fund.

Kathy Jones, town budget officer, said officials were able to cut back overtime for snow plowing.

The budget forecasts $1,010,480 in expenses during 2013, an increase of $28,472 compared to last year. Approximately 46 percent of that amount is from the town’s general fund, 44 percent from the highway fund, and just less than 10 percent pays for fire protection.

Officials expect to generate $168,435 in nontax revenue, a decrease of $5,107.

Officials were able to keep the tax rate down by using $30,000 from its unexpended balance, which is extra money that hasn’t been spent or earmarked for other purposes. That’s $10,000 more than the amount the town used last year.

Officials estimate there will be approximately $201,000 of unexpended funds in the town’s account at the beginning of the year. Using $30,000 of that amount to buy down the tax levy will leave the town with $171,000 of unexpended balance that can be used to cover unexpected costs or keep future tax increases at a minimum.

The state recommends a municipality’s unexpended balance should fall somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of its total budget, Armstrong said.

After factoring in the use of those funds, the total amount to be raises by taxes is $809,645.

The largest portion of those funds ($578,976) is allocated for the townwide and highway general fund. Another $123,569 is used by the Highway Department outside the village; $8,900 is used primarily for code enforcement and the planning board; and $98,200 is used for fire protection.

That means a resident who owns a property assessed for $100,000 can expect to pay $313 for the townwide and highway general fund; $126 for the highway department outside the village; $9 for the planning board and code enforcement; and $94 for fire protection.

A public hearing on the budget will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the Whitehall Municipal Center.

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