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Budget Calls for 2.5% Tax Hike After Cuts Restored

LEWISBORO, N.Y. – The Lewisboro Town Board voted 3-2 to approve a preliminary budget that would call for a 2.5 percent increase in the tax levy.

Supervisor Charles Duffy had originally proposed a tentative budget that would have resulted in a 1 percent decrease in the tax rate, but the board opted to restore several line items to the $9.7 million spending package, which resulted in the 3.5 percent swing.

Duffy said a total of $178,000 was restored to his proposed budget. That included the reinstatement of a motor equipment operator position for the highway department. That posts receives a $70,000 base salary, but with benefits and retirement package, the total value climbs to $104,000.

Additionally, the position of senior citizen bus driver was restored from part-time back to fulltime, as was the position of deputy building inspector. However, to balance the cost of those restorations, a fulltime parks and rec position that was going to be reduced to part-time has been eliminated completely.

Duffy, along with councilmen Peter DeLucia and Frank Kelly, voted to approve the preliminary budget, while Dan Welsh and John Pappalardo were opposed.

“I could have not voted for these changes and stuck with my budget if I had wanted to – I was the deciding vote,” Duffy said. “But the way I look at is this: how much am I asking the public to pay when compared to last year?”

Duffy said it’s not much. For the 2011 budget, $5,176,000 needed to be raised by taxes. For 2012, it will be $5,209,000 – an increase of $33,000, or about .6 percent. He said a decrease in property valuations is the culprit behind the tax jump – not spending.

“Inside that 2.5 percent tax increase, 1.9 percent is due to a decrease in the assessed evaluation of our homes,” he said. “So, if we had spent the exact same amount this year as we did last year, we would have had a 1.9 percent tax increase anyway.”

Duffy said the police portion of the town budget saw a 2 percent hike, even though three part-time positions were eliminated. Increases stem from one officer being promoted to lieutenant and more spending on the training budget.

“We had a pool of 13 part-time officers and three were deemed no longer necessary to staff the current number of patrol hours,” the supervisor said.

The board is also considering restoring a full-time post that had been eliminated from previous budgets – the position of sergeant, which was held by Chief Frank Secret but never filled after his promotion.

Duffy said the funding of a full-time position was never intended to replace the part-time slots that are being cut.

“They are separate issues,” he said.

Duffy said police patrol hours would decrease from 186 hours a week to 154 hours – a drop of 32 hours. The plan is increase patrols by eight hours on Friday while reducing Sunday through Thursday patrols by 40, for a net decrease of 32. Saturday patrols would remain the same.

“These are chief’s recommendations and the board fully supports them,” Duffy said. “What it all comes down to is that our police force is a supplemental force to the state police, which is on patrol 24/7.”

There will be a public hearing for the proposed budget on Monday night at the Lewisboro Library at 7:30 p.m.

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