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Stockholm unveils preliminary 2013 spending plan

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WINTHROP - A Stockholm landowner with property assessed at $100,000 would see a tax increase of just over $6 under a tentative spending plan for 2013 unveiled by Town Supervisor Clark Decker.

The tax rate for the proposed $1.65 million spending plan, which includes $543,343 allocated to the general fund and $913,300 to the highway fund, would climb from $3.61 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2012 to $3,67 per $1,000 in 2013.

Total budget appropriations for the town’s general and highway fund rose from $1,290,703 in 2011 to $1,381,253 in 2012. Total spending for those two funds in the 2013 budget is $1,456,643.

The town’s assessed value increased from $125,086,936 in 2010 to $126,377,025 in 2011, a $1.3 million jump. It dropped to $116,948,304 in 2012.

Mr. Decker said the 1.9 percent tax increase was designed to stay under the state’s 2 percent tax cap.

He said he resented “Big Brother’s” intrusion in local government operations.

He pointed out the tax cap limit of 2 percent would raise an additional $1,200 for the general fund and $7,000 for the highway fund.

“There’s no need for a tax cap. We hadn’t had a tax increase in seven or eight years. Now we’re looking at 2 percent every year to get our reserves up. It is a penalty on good, conservative well-managed towns,” he charged.

The town’s fiscal advisor, former Town Supervisor Arthur Sweeney, said the property owner with a $100,000 property would see their town tax bill climb from $360.21 in 2012 to $367.20 under the tentative 2013 spending plan.

The budget calls for 3 percent raises to town employees and restores funding to outside agencies, such as Brasher-Stockholm Recreation and the Quad Town Senior Citizens Club, back to 2011 levels.

The town board had trimmed contracts to all outside agencies by 10 percent in its 2012 budget, but Mr. Decker had previously said the town’s fiscal situation had improved over the past 12 months.

Mr. Decker’s tentative budget had also called for 3 percent raises for town board members - raising the town supervisor’s pay by $402 from $13,390 to $13,792 and each town council member’s salary from $3,605 to $3,713, a hike of $108 for each council person.

But town board members immediately took action to eliminate that $432 increase from the budget. “I’m not comfortable taking a pay raise,” Councilman Matthew White said.

The measure to remove the raises was passed unanimously by the town board.

A projected 4.7 percent pay increase for the town justice - from an annual salary of $8,838 in 2012 to $9,250 - was not impacted by the board action.

The Stockholm town supervisor said he had budgeted $30,000 in franchise fees from Time Warner and SLIC and had projected sales tax revenues would climb from the $480,000 budgeted in 2012 to $500,000 in 2013. He said the projected increase is based on the town’s first three sales tax payments this year.

The budget also allocates $54,100 in appropriated fund balance to the highway fund and $59,008 in appropriated fund balance to the general fund.

He said on the reserve side increases in fuel costs led town officials to hike their general fuel budget by $5,000 to $85,000 and its snow removal line item for salt purchases by $3,000 to $22,000.

The town is also facing significant increases in state retirement and health insurance costs. Mr. Decker said town officials are currently involved in negotiations with the union representing its highway department employees in an effort to switch health care coverage to a less expensive plan.

He noted the town’s unallocated insurance costs are also rising as local officials changed coverage on its vehicles from purchase cost to replacement cost, hiking the premiums from $30,000 to $40,000.

“We’re told general insurance rates are expected to go up 15 to 20 percent next year. When your policies come due, brace yourself,” Mr. Decker said.

He also said residents in the three lighting districts in the municipality - Winthrop, West Stockholm and Sanfordville - will see decreases in their rates.

“We have accrued high enough balances in our street light fund to decrease rates next year,” he noted.

The Stockholm town supervisor said the town board will be asked to adopt a preliminary budget at its October meeting and a public hearing will be held Nov. 8 at the West Stockholm fire station.

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