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Canton proposes 4.8 percent town tax increase, salary hikes

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CANTON — Property owners in the town of Canton will face a 4.8 percent tax rate increase under a proposed 2013 town budget that for the second year in a row increases salaries for elected officials and several town employees.

The tentative $2,618,816 budget would boost overall spending by $20,601, representing a 0.8 percentage point increase from this year’s $2,598,215 budget.

The tax rate would increase from $2.29 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $2.40.

Town Supervisor David T. Button is scheduled to discuss the budget during a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday in the municipal building, 60 Main St. The board is expected to approve the plan that evening, but can delay adoption until November if necessary.

“Even with these changes, the town would remain the fifth lowest among taxing jurisdictions among all town, village and county government in St. Lawrence County,” Mr. Button said.

He said the state comptroller’s office has not yet determined how the tax cap will affect individual municipalities, but he believes the 4.8 percent tax increase will be much lower than the town’s tax cap level.

The budget includes a 2 percent wage increase for Mr. Button, whose annual salary would rise from $13,240 to $13,504.

Annual pay for Town Councilmen James T. Smith, Daniel G. Fay and Paul F. Backus would increase from $4,545 to $4,635.

Besides elected officials, several appointed town employees also will see a 2 percent raise: Town Clerk Lisa A. Hammond, bookkeeper Denice Button, code enforcement officer Russell B. Lawrence IV, Deputy Clerk Linda A. Casserly and justice court staff.

In this year’s budget, elected officials and appointed town employees received 3 percent increases. Highway Superintendent Terry L. Billings will continue to be paid $30,000 because that’s the maximum he can receive and still collect retirement, Mr. Button said.

Mr. Button said he is proposing about a 23 percent salary increase for the town’s two elected justices because their workload is expected to increase significantly next year when the village court system is dissolved.

The budget includes increasing the salaries of Justice Cathleen E. O’Horo and Justice Thomas B. Wheeler from $21,218 to $26,142.

“Their work will more than double. We have to pay them for the additional workload,” Mr. Button said. “I think we’re getting our money’s worth.”

Mr. Button said he also feels a 2 percent increase for elected officials is justified. This year they received a 3 percent increase, but last year their salaries did not increase.

“I think people would be amazed at the workload our board members carry,” the supervisor said. “I wish I could give them more.”

The proposed budget keeps highway improvement funding at $350,000, which is earmarked to renovate seven miles of town roads, the same amount that was upgraded this year.

Funding for emergency services and the Canton Free Library both would increase by 2 percent, while funding for recreation would increase 3 percent.

The budget reflects increased expenses for the state retirement system, with the town’s share increasing from this year’s $134,777 to $143,754.

Employee health insurance costs are expected to increase by 10 percent.

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