LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Property owners will face a 6.4 percent tax increase under the budget for 2013 approved Monday night by the Lewisboro Town Board.
The $10.2 million spending package came under scrutiny last month when Supervisor Peter Parson’s initial proposal called for a 19.072 percent tax hike. That budget included a $235,000 repaving program for Lewisboro roads that was eventually cut, but town officials said it could be brought back next year as a bond issue or a referendum vote.
The final budget anticipates $4.8 million in revenue, meaning $5.4 million will need to raised by taxes – a 4.76 percent increase over last year.
The tax rate now stands at $17.07 per $1,000 of assessed property value – up from last year’s rate of $16.63.
Parsons said the board made 2 percent across-the-board cuts in expenditures that were not obligated by contracts. He blamed health and medical benefit costs and other unfunded mandates beyond the town’s control for the tax rate increase. He said that if such costs were eliminated from the budget, spending would decrease by 2.4 percent.
Other cuts included eliminating $11,000 in raises for elected town officials and spreading payments the town owes to NYSEG over a longer period of time. The Highway Department also cut its energy and fuel budget.
“The Highway Department’s road and maintenance budget is down to $50,000,” Parsons added. “It’s a pothole budget.”
The board listened to comments from residents, some of whom complained that the town didn’t cut enough, while others said it cut too much and was abdicating its stewardship of the town.
“You must think long-term in regard to the infrastructure of the town,” said South Salem resident Paul Lewis. “Road paving must be included in the budget. It should not be funded by a bond or referendum. Don’t abdicate your responsibility. Pay as you go instead of borrowing.”
Parsons said he agreed that the town roads need to be addressed, but said public feedback and the town board majority contended the plan was fiscally unfeasible in the current economic climate.
“I think it’s fairly well known that I’ve wanted to put some money in the budget for [road repaving],” he said. “But I’ve not been able to carry that off with members of the community or even members of the board.”
Some in the audience questioned the town’s addition of a full-time policeman instead of staffing the department entirely with part-time officers – as it currently is – and avoid having to pay benefits.
Parsons admitted that way may be cheaper, but said it was not an efficient way to make sure all shifts are consistently maintained.
“The board has thought long and hard about this,” he said. “The No. 1 priority for us is to provide security and safety. We think this is a better way to police the town or else we wouldn’t have gone down this road.”
The board voted 4-1 to pass the budget, with Dan Welsh the lone dissenter.
“I appreciate what you are trying to do with this budget, but I disagree with these cuts,” Welsh said.