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Newstead eats into surplus to keep taxes down in preliminary budget

NEWSTEAD – While spending is up in the Town of Newstead preliminary budget, the tax rate is set to stay about the same as it was for 2015.

Supervisor David Cummings presented the preliminary budget Monday during a Town Board meeting. Spending is set to increase by nearly $130,000, to $4.9 million in 2016.

Despite the increase in spending, the town was able to keep the tax rate about the same by using money from the town’s fund balance, Cummings said.

“We’re using up our savings, point blank,” he said, noting that the town’s fund balances are depleted. “We will continue to use it as long as we can, until we get relief from the state government.”

The amount raised by taxes is up by $38,000 to $2.34 million for 2016.

Citing the 2 percent tax cap imposed by the state, which is actually 0.73 percent for 2016, Cummings said completing a budget that stays under the cap is increasingly difficult.

“The state promised when the 2 percent law was put into effect there would be state mandate relief,” he said. “This has not occurred.”

The proposed tax rate in the budget is $1.31 per $1,000 of assessed value, down slightly from $1.34 per $1,000.

The town is also looking at ways to “streamline” services, and make the town more efficient, Cummings said.

The Town Board has the final say on the budget when they vote on it in November. A public hearing will be held at 7:45 p.m. Oct. 26 at Newstead Town Hall.

In other town news, the board voted unanimously to pass the town’s windmill law, and end the six-month moratorium on windmills in the town.

“We’ve had public hearings, comments from all kinds of groups and meetings with the Planning Board,” Cummings said.

“I think this is hopefully well thought out.”