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Board plans hearing on exceeding property tax cap

The town does not plan to increase the local property tax rate beyond the state's newly imposed limit of 2 percent, but Town Board members want to be prepared in case such an increase becomes necessary.

The five-member Town Board set a public hearing for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 24 on a proposed local law that would permit the town to override the cap on tax increases for 2012 if there is no other alternative. The hearing will be held in the Town Hall, 1375 Ridge Road.

"We're not planning a tax increase, but this will give us an opportunity to discuss it if we have to," Town Supervisor Steven L. Reiter said Monday.

Reiter said the soaring costs of refuse disposal and workers' compensation insurance, along with other cost increases, have made the current round of budget preparations especially challenging. Town Attorney Michael J. Dowd said he will prepare a draft of a local law to be discussed at the public hearing.

The new state law requires towns and other municipalities, including school districts, to limit their property tax increases to 2 percent or to the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. The current rate of inflation is about 3.8 percent.

But there are ways to get around the cap. For example, if a town's contributions to the pensions of former employees go up, as they did this year, the amount over 2 percent is exempt from the cap. Certain parts of court-ordered judgment payments also are exempt.

A town board can override the cap if it first holds a public hearing on the matter. An override also requires at least a 60 percent affirmative vote of the board members. In Lewiston's case, it would require the votes of only three board members.

The Town of Bedford in Westchester County became one of the first towns in New York State to override the cap when board members voted last week to dispense with the limit after a public hearing there with one of the largest crowds in recent memory. Local officials said they were asserting the right to rule themselves.

The Oct. 24 public hearing in Lewiston will precede the Town Board's regular meeting at 6 that evening.

>In other business

*In response to a petition signed by residents of The Circle, Dowd said he would research the procedure for changing the name of the street to The Circle Drive. The petitioners said they object to some of their mail being addressed to The Cir.

*Dowd also said he would look into the procedures for the town to sell some small parcels of landlocked property to the adjoining property owners and would make a report at a board work session at 3 p.m. Oct. 13.

*The board established 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 31 as the official hours for Halloween trick-or-treating in the town.

*The board received a report from the state Department of Transportation stating that the 12-foot-wide turning lane at Military and Lewiston roads is sufficient for the traffic there but that new pavement markings will be added to make the intersection safer.

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