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Hartland budget has 10.1% hike in tax rate

Under the 2008 spending plan adopted Thursday by the Hartland Town Board, taxpayers will see a 46-cent tax rate hike per $1,000 of assessed valuation next year -- the largest increase the town has seen in the 29 years Supervisor William Annable has been in office.

The hike translates into a 10.1 percent increase in the tax rate.

Meanwhile, the tax rates in two other towns that passed 2008 spending plans last week -- Somerset and Wilson -- will be about the same.

In Hartland, taxes will rise from the current $4.57 to $5.03 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in the town's $2.7 million budget, Annable said, for a variety of reasons.

"We've been trying to update our water system and install automatic meters so we don't have to go out and read them," he said, "and that raised the water district tax from $1.80 to $2.20 per $1,000."

It's a one-time increase, Annable said, "and that was one of the biggest reasons for the hike."

The supervisor said he was disappointed in the rate, "but I ran the numbers several times, and this is what I came up with.

"Maybe we should have done this in small increments over time instead of a big increase like this," he said.

The town cut taxes 21 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation last year.

"I call this a bare-bones budget," Annable said. "It doesn't get any easier. There's no place to get extra money from."

The board unanimously approved the budget, which also includes a 3 percent, across-the board pay increase for town employees.

Meanwhile, new budgets in Somerset and Wilson will hold the line on taxes.

The Somerset Town Board approved a $3.4 million budget Wednesday that keeps the tax rate at $2.57 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, Supervisor Richard Meyers said.

Many residents had anticipated tax hikes due to a controversial tax break brokered last fall by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency for AES Corp.'s Somerset power plant.

"We're getting less money because of the PILOT [payment in lieu of taxes agreement], but we were also able to drop $300,000 in attorney's fees because we're no longer in litigation with AES over assessments," Meyers said. "Now we have to start looking for other ways to raise money so that we can eliminate the town tax altogether. We're looking at wind power and the money we'd raise in a host agreement, for example."

In Wilson, Supervisor Joseph Jastrzemski said the town board kept the tax rate steady at $3.88 per $1,000 of assessed valuation when it adopted a $2.9 million plan for next year.

"I'm very proud of this budget, this board and the department heads because we all worked together on this," he said.

The spending plan includes a slight increase over the current budget to allow for the purchase of a new tandem truck for snow removal and a single-axle dump truck. Jastrzemski said the town had set aside money for both long-awaited purchases in order to avoid borrowing.

The budget also included a 3 percent, across-the board raise for town employees, excluding the supervisor, Town Board and Highway Superintendent Daniel Kerwin, who declined the raise.

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