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Parsons Backs Tax Hike For Lewisboro Road Work

LEWISBORO, N.Y. – The Lewisboro Highway Department is seeking a 16 percent increase in expenditures for the 2013 town budget, and the request has the support of Supervisor Peter Parsons.

Parsons said he wants to use about $235,000 of the proposed $429,000 increase for road-paving projects throughout the town – something he says Lewisboro has neglected for the past four years. If the increase is adopted, the Highway Department budget would jump from 2012’s total of $2.6 million to about $3 million in 2013.

The balance of the requested budget increase not used for road repaving would cover across-the-board pay increases of 2.67 percent, which already have been negotiated with the union, as well as a health premium increase of 9.2 percent.

“Stuff like [negotiated salary increases and health premiums] we cannot change,” Parsons said.

Parsons said that despite the tough economic climate, it is time for the town to bite the bullet when it comes to maintaining its roads. He pointed out that the town ranks the condition of its 84 paved roads on a scale of 1-9, with 1 being the worst and 9 being the best, and that 34 of the roads ranked in the 1-3 range.

He also noted that from 2009 to the present, the town has paved or repaved just two roads. It repaved a total of 15 roads in 2007 and 2008, using bond money, just before the recession hit.

“The question is, are our finances so bad that we must continue on the current track and ignore the conditions of our roads?” the supervisor said. “They’re not just something that is nice to have – they are a vital service. It’s a matter of public safety, and we should set it as an objective.”

The total projected cost of the repaving plan is actually $350,000. Of that, $235,000 would come from the budget – likely to be raised by an increase in the tax levy – and about $115,000 would come from the state’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Program.

Because the town budget is still a work in progress, Parsons said it’s too soon to know exactly what the tax increase would be, but Town Comptroller Leo Masterson estimated it would be an average increase of about $40 per parcel of land, or $19 per person based on the 2010 census.

“It is a pure tax increase,” Parsons said. “It’s a simple choice in a sense.”

Parsons said he realizes that the repaving program would result in the town's exceeding the state’s 2 percent tax cap.

“But we were probably going to pop that anyway,” he said.

Parsons said that if the town doesn’t act now with a long-term plan for road maintenance, the problem will only get worse and more costly.

The Highway Department estimates that the cost to repave one mile of road with blacktop is $130,000. The department's plan calls for using blacktop only on the town's main roads, such as Spring Street, Main Street and Mead Road. Secondary roads would be treated with oil and stone at a cost of $30,000 per mile. Roads in particularly grievous condition would cost an extra $15,000 per mile regardless of whether blacktop or oil and stone is used.

“I know some people don’t like oil and stone, but it’s a lot different now than it was several years ago,” Parsons said. “There are new technologies that make it better. They have computers that regulate the flow of stone [as it’s applied]. I’m not pretending it will make everyone happy, but if they wait a few months after it’s applied, they’ll see it’s pretty good.”

Parson said the town has been monitoring North Salem, a town that has been using oil and stone, to see its level of success.

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