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Growth slump, Delphi cause Lockport tax increase

A slump in the town's growth and efforts to keep Delphi's Lockport plant from closing were the primary reasons for a small tax increase in the 2008 budget the Town Board passed unanimously Wednesday.
The $13.9 million spending plan, which is 1.2 percent higher than the 2007 model, results in a tax increase of 1.8 percent, or $13.95, for a homeowner whose house is assessed at $100,000. Budget Officer Robert A. Lipp said such a home would have a total tax bill of $787.51, up from $773.56 last year.

Those figures don't apply in the town's two oldest subdivisions, Lincoln Village and Carlisle Gardens. The 2008 budget includes increases of 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in sewer taxes there, as the town carries out the second year of a three-year plan to equalize water and sewer rates with the rest of the town and build a fund for expected rehabilitation of the sewer systems in the two subdivisions.
Lipp said the average Lincoln Village home is assessed at $70,000, and such a home will see an overall town tax increase of $55.12. In Carlisle Gardens, the average home is assessed at $110,000, and the increase in the tax bill will be $69.18.
Supervisor Marc R. Smith, who said taxes are still about $31 lower than they were three years ago, blamed most of the 2008 increase on the sewer fund. Water and refuse charges are actually down, while fire protection taxes will rise $2.55 for the average homeowner. But sewer charges will rise $25.43 outside the two older subdivisions. Smith said state law won't allow the town to transfer its bulging surpluses in other funds to the sewer fund. The sewer fund has a surplus, but he said using enough of it to avoid a tax increase "would have imprudently left us with too low a balance."
Tax rates per $1,000 of assessed valuation in most of the town are: fire protection, $1.13, up 3 cents; water, 81 cents, down 2 cents; and sewer, $4.03, up 25 cents. There is no general town tax.
Overall, the town's tax base declined this year because of a move the town made last year to bolster the financial situation at Delphi, which had filed for bankruptcy protection.
The Lockport Energy Associates co-generation power plant in the town is a main source of power and steam for the Delphi plant in the City of Lockport. The town made an indirect move to try to help Delphi by cutting the power plant's assessment from $75 million to $25 million.
"We didn't generate enough other increases in assessed value to make up for it," Smith said. The total assessed value of the town fell $22 million in 2007. In a typical year, the tax base grows $45 million to $47 million, Smith said.
"This was a slow growth year," Smith said. "I expect we'll have decent growth next year. It's all part of the national economy."
The board approved a new refuse disposal and recycling contract with Waste Management, which takes effect Feb. 15. It will reduce the refuse charge per household from the 2007 figure of $201.80 to $170.95. However, since the public hearing notice for the budget had to be published before the bids on the refuse contract were opened Oct. 25, residents won't see all of that reduction in their 2008 bills. The budget estimated a refuse charge of $190 per household.
The new contract calls for Waste Management to handle all the pickup and disposal work. Currently, Waste Management picks up the trash and hauls it to the Covanta -- formerly American Ref-Fuel -- incinerator in Niagara Falls, while Modern Disposal collects and processes recyclables. Smith said the trash will be landfilled under the new deal.
The budget granted 3 percent increases in the amounts paid to the five fire companies that service the town. The salaries of Smith and the four councilmen will be unchanged, but other elected town officials will see a 3 percent increase.


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