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Brasher officials override tax cap, pass budget

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BRASHER FALLS - Brasher Town Board members unanimously passed a motion Thursday to override the 2 percent tax cap, but it won’t be necessary for their 2014 budget, which they also passed during their special meeting.

“I can say to you that our tax increase is 1.7 percent,” Town Supervisor M. James Dawson said during a public hearing that drew no residents.

He said they would have gone above the tax cap if a proposal to place a branch library in downtown Brasher Falls had passed on Tuesday. But that proposition went down to a 511-58 defeat.

If it had passed, Mr. Dawson said, they would have needed to add $56,000 to their budget as a general line item. That’s the amount Massena Public Library officials were asking from Brasher taxpayers to start the library in Crapser Hall, located in the former Boothe Building in downtown Brasher Falls.

The $56,000 would have included $13,000 for the part-time manager’s salary and benefits. That person would have been paid approximately $15.73 an hour for 15 hours a week. That cost was based on 50 percent of the highest paid part-time employee’s hours being spent at the branch. Their plan was to staff the branch library with a part-time employee who would not receive benefits.

It also included $10,000 for furniture, $12,500 for a starter collection, $3,600 for heat and lights, $5,400 for the technology and automation startup and rent at $400 a month for a five-year lease.

Massena Public Library officials had said the proposition would translate to a tax increase of 67 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase of $67 for the owner of a home assessed at $100,000. Town officials, however, have said, based on the town raising $385,014 in taxes for their highway and general fund, the increase would be approximately 14.5 percent.

“We didn’t know if the library proposal would pass or not,” he said. “As long as we’re here, we may as well do this (pass the tax cap).”

Councilmen also unanimously passed the budget, which had been prepared by William Dashnaw, the town’s budget officer.

Although they didn’t discuss specific line items, Mr. Dawson said the tax rate will rise from $4.62 per $1,000 of assessed value to $4.70, an 8 cent increase. That translates to a 1.74 percent increase in taxes, according to the town supervisor, who said they will have a $393,954 surplus in the highway and general funds.

“It occurs to me we are in fairly sound financial condition,” he said, noting they had a surplus to “fall back on” if unexpected expenses came up in 2014.

“We picked kind of a level path here, and I think we’re in pretty good shape,” he said.

Thursday’s meeting had been called specifically to hold a public hearing on overriding the tax cap. Board members will meet for their regular session at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the municipal building.

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