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Small tax rate increase for Middleport residents

MIDDLEPORT – Residents will see a slight tax rate increase in the tentative 2013-14 budget, which will be presented in a public hearing by the Middleport Village Board at 7 p.m. Monday.

The tentative $1,719,717 budget includes a tax rate increase of 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Under the proposal, village residents who live in the Town of Royalton will pay $10.31 per $1,000 of assessed value, while village residents who live in the Town of Hartland will pay $10 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The vast majority of village residents live within the Town of Royalton’s boundaries, where the town has assessed the properties at 97 percent of whole value. The Town of Hartland has assessed its properties at 100 percent value.

Village officials said the increase was made necessary by FMC Corp.’s decision to tear down several empty, unused buildings, removing those properties from the tax rolls and dropping its assessment about $95,000. In order for the village board to slightly raise its current tax levy of $529,594 to $536,455 in the tentative budget, it has proposed raising the tax rate by a little more than one percent.

The tentative budget includes a general fund of $1,152,585; a water fund of $259,383; and a sewer fund of $307,748.

The tentative general fund for 2013-14 is up about $16,000 over the current budget, attributed to the rising state-mandated costs of funding retirement and health insurance, according to Village Clerk Rebecca Schweigert.

“In 2002, the village paid $2,000 in retirement costs,” Schweigert noted. “Last year, the village was mandated by the state to pay $102,000. That’s an incredible leap in just 10 years and we have no say in it. This is strangling small municipalities.

“We have a very bare bones budget,” she said. “It’s sad that we can’t do the things we want to, but we can only take care of the day-to-day (expenses) unless the state lessens its grip.”

Mayor Richard Westcott concurred, adding, “We are trying to keep the same services we’ve had as best we can. It’s the same old story, doing more with less, but in our case, we can’t do more. We’re just trying to maintain what we’ve had with less. Losing $95,000 in assessments (the FMC properties) was an awful hit for a small village to absorb and it puts you behind the 8-ball in a hurry.”

The board has until May 1 to adopt its budget.

Last week, three villages adopted their budgets for 2013-14. Wilson adopted its tentative $715,869 budget, holding the line on taxes at $7.37 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Barker okayed its tentative $401,969 budget, lowering the tax rate a dollar to $7 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

And Lewiston adopted its tentative $3.3 million budget, holding the line on taxes at $7.12 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The board also set a public hearing for 6 p.m. Monday on its proposed amendments in the village code to lower the sewer rate six cents to $4.59 per 100 cubic feet of water used, and also dropping the water rate by six cents to $3.49 per 100 cubic feet of water consumed. The board is also considering removing a $5 surcharge per billing cycle. If approved, these changes would become effective July 1.