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Tue., Sep. 16
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Waddington fears lost sales tax revenue will mean 32 percent levy hike

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WADDINGTON – The town’s supervisor says he fears the town will have to raise its tax levy by 32 percent if St. Lawrence County decides to withhold its sales tax and snow removal revenue from municipalities next year.

County legislators have raised the possibility of reducing some of the snow removal and sales tax money traditionally distributed to municipalities as a way to offset expenditures in next year’s budget.

Town Supervisor Mark Scott said this move would be an extreme loss to municipalities, including Waddington, which could lose up to $125,000 in revenue.

“This loss of revenue will be especially devastating to this tentative budget and the Waddington taxpayers,” Mr. Scott said. “The county has mistakenly assumed that a small town like Waddington has a fund balance to absorb this revenue. Should the county succeed in cutting Waddington’s revenues, the town would be faced with a tax levy increase of 32 percent, or lose its fund balance in two years.”

In its tentative 2013 budget, the Town Council plans not to increase the property tax rate for 2013. This year’s proposal is $261,943, a $1,356 increase from last year’s budget of $260,587, Mr. Scott said. However, the town’s tax rate will decrease to $1.97 per $1,000 of property value, 3 cents less than this year.

No increase in town fees is proposed, and the number of town staff will remain the same with the proposed hiring of a part-time Highway Department crew member.

“We considered hiring a full-time employee, but that would be too expensive,” said Mr. Scott.

“The fiscal reality and consensus of Waddington taxpayers is to keep the tax levy stable for another year, which is being proposed in this tentative budget for the third consecutive year,” he said.

Over the years, the town has made changes to its health insurance policy, decreased its liability insurance, allowed the retirement of two highway employees and outsourced the mowing of its cemetery to offset the losses in state aid, increased pension costs and other payroll expenses, and a continued decline in court revenues.

The town’s current fund balance is approximately $250,000, Mr. Scott said. He said the town has earmarked a large portion of that that money for repairs and renovation projects: $54,000 for restoration efforts to the Old Town Hall; $55,000 for repairs to Old Brookside Cemetery; and $182,000 for Leishman Point development.

“Looking to the future, we will continue to look for savings, however the larger savings have already been found, and used,” Mr. Scott said. “So the town will have to find a way to increase revenues from sources other than property taxes. The town would not be able to grow fast enough to offset typical annual increases in the future. Just to keep up with inflation the town would have to grow at the same rate as the inflation rate, and that’s a lot of new construction.”

He said the town is looking at turning Leishman Point into a campground to generate revenue to offset future tax levy increases.

The Town Council will hold a public hearing on the budget proposal at 7 p.m. Oct. 8 in the Town Municipal Building. Pending the county’s decision, the council will hold a public hearing to override the 2 percent cap at that time.

“We’re hoping the county will take it off, the table,” Mr. Scott said. “Otherwise we will have no choice but to enact the local law that would enable us to override the 2 percent tax cap. Every municipality will have to do the same.”

Mr. Scott said he, mayors and fellow supervisors from several municipalities will meet next week to discuss the county’s proposal.

The county is expected to present its proposed budget on Oct. 1.

Legislator Jonathan S. Putney, D-Waddington, said he will present a special presentation to Waddington after the county’s budget plan is released to address the specifics of the budget with taxpayers.

He did not comment on whether he supports the county’s sales tax distribution option.

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