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Lyme tax levy to increase 43 percent in first hike since 2007

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CHAUMONT — Lyme residents had a good run. But the town government, for the first time since 2007, is raising its tax rate — partly to pay for the revaluation next year but also to replenish its fund balance.

Under Lyme’s 2013 budget, the tax levy is going up by 43 percent — from $249,419 to $356,484. The levy is the amount of money a governing body raises through property taxes.

The 2013 town tax rate will be $3.26 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from $2.43 per $1,000.

In other words, an owner of a property assessed at $50,000 will pay $41 more in taxes next year.

The money spent for the reassessment of properties in the town will eventually be reimbursed by the state, but not until the process is complete, said Supervisor Scott G. Aubertine.

Mr. Aubertine said the drastic increase in the 2013 tax rate also, in part, reflects the change in how Jefferson County handles chargebacks — money towns set aside for county services, which were not included in local budgets until this year.

Also, as it has done in years past, Lyme could have applied more of its fund balance toward decreasing the levy, but officials determined it was a bad business practice.

For the past couple of years, Mr. Aubertine warned the board it cannot continue to avoid raising the tax rate by depleting its fund balance.

One day, he said, Lyme would be forced to increase taxes by a huge amount if that carries on.

It appears that day has finally come.

In 2013, the town will take $295,000 from its fund balance — still a hefty amount, but $80,000 less than it used this fiscal year.

While revenue projections are down as a whole, the town expects to receive $1,014,051 in sales tax next year.

This is roughly what Lyme would receive by the end of this year, and a $43,913 increase from what it was projected to get in 2012.

The total budget, excluding special district funds, is rising by 3.2 percent next year — from $2,207,143 to $2,278,010.

The budget includes a 1.5 percent raise for town officials.

Mr. Aubertine will receive $10,454, a $154 increase from what he earned this year.

The four council members will each get $4,958, up $73 from their 2012 compensation, and the town clerk will be paid $32,089, an extra $474.

Highway Superintendent Patrick D. Weston will get a 3 percent raise — his new salary is $51,500 — but not the new plow truck the Highway Department hoped to purchase this winter.

The town’s highway budget, which accounts for nearly half of Lyme’s annual spending, increased by 3.2 percent from $938,782 to $969,096.

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