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Lowville councilmen adjust budget to meet cap, drop tax rates

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LOWVILLE — Lowville town councilmen on Wednesday made nearly $30,000 in budget adjustments — including removal of most raises — to stay within state tax cap guidelines and offer tax-rate decreases of at least 3 percent.

“Times are tough,” said Councilman Stephan M. Zubrzycki during a special budget session.

Nathan Carroll from Nagy and Croniser CPAs, which handles town bookkeeping, a few weeks ago presented a tentative budget created primarily through departmental requests that included salary increases for many town employees.

Councilmen on Wednesday asked Mr. Carroll to remove those raises, aside from negotiated ones for highway workers, to reduce expenditures for 2013.

Readjusting the salaries to 2012 levels, along with some other adjustments made by town officials, resulted in more than $20,000 in savings.

At the suggestion of Town Supervisor Randall A. Schell, projected mortgage tax revenues were also increased by $8,000, from $12,000 to $20,000. Actual receipts in 2011 were more than $40,000, and about $21,000 has been collected so far this year with one payment to go, he said.

“It’s pretty dependable money,” Mr. Schell said. “It’s been understated a bit.”

With Wednesday’s changes, the overall tax levy — including benefit assessments for water customers — would increase by 3.3 percent from $913,263 to $952,193.

While the levy increase in the original tentative budget would not have met state tax cap guidelines, the revised one is $13,750 less than the maximum allowable increase, Mr. Carroll said.

The taxable value of the town is also projected to increase from $212.44 million to $221.14 million, primarily because the FiberMark plant has come off a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement and Town Assessor Erin C. Gratch has eliminated several million dollars worth of agricultural exemptions that could not be justified, Mr. Schell said.

Because of that, the tax rate for village property owners would drop by 4 percent from $3.11 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.99 per $1,000, while those outside the village would see a rate decrease of 3.2 percent from $6.48 to $6.28 per $1,000.

The Town Council plans to conduct a final review of the proposed budget and adopt a final version at its regular meeting at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Councilmen at Wednesday’s meeting also received copies of recommendations from the Lewis County Planning Board and the town Zoning Board of Appeals on changes to the proposed law regulating anaerobic digesters.

However, since not all board members are expected to be at next week’s board meeting, Mr. Schell suggested holding off on further discussion until the Dec. 20 meeting.

“I don’t see any real hurry,” he said.

That timetable would allow board members to make any changes and still hold a public hearing early next year, Mr. Schell said.

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