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Proposed Canton village budget calls for tax decrease; water, sewer rate hikes

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CANTON - Property owners would see a 2.33 percent decrease next year in their village tax bill under a preliminary 2014-15 budget being considered by the village’s Board of Trustees.

At the same time, water and sewer rates would each climb by 5 percent.

A public hearing on the proposed $5,807,956 spending plan is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in the municipal building. The board is required to adopt a new budget by May 1.

“There still may be some changes pending feedback from the public,” said Mayor Mary Ann Ashley.

Under the proposal, the village tax rate would decrease from $10.44 per $1,000 of assessed value to $10.20. The owner of a home assessed at $100,000, if their assessment remained unchanged, would see a $24 reduction in their tax bill.

Spending would decrease from this year’s $6,415,635 budget, largely because in the current spending plan the village paid off its $695,000 debt on the fire station, the mayor said.

On the revenue side, the village expects to receive an additional $89,000 in sales tax as a result of the 1 percent hike in county sales tax. Funds from the state for highway work is expected to increase by $8,900.

The proposed budget calls for increasing funding for economic development from $28,000 to $75,000, but details about how the money will be used haven’t been decided, Ms. Ashley said. She would like the village and town officials to work together on developing a plan.

“We plan to have a joint meeting and discuss where we are now and where we want to go as a team to enhance economic development,” the mayor said. “We have got to invest more in economic development to assist our revenue stream and bring in more sales tax.”

The budget also includes spending approximately $339,250 for equipment purchases, an increase from this year’s $95,500. The village plans to buy a new snow plow for approximately $160,000 and a vacuum trailer for $88,000 to clean out sewers. The village has also allocated $20,000 to pay half the cost of a new boiler for the municipal building.

Repaving Judson and Jay streets will cost an estimated $105,000.

The largest portion of the village budget, 53.8 percent, is for employee wages and benefits. The village is projecting health insurance will cost more than $707,100 while retirement costs are estimated at $366,052.

“With payroll and benefits consuming this large portion of the budget, controlling labor costs is a priority,” Ms. Ashley said.

The proposed budget allocates approximately $1 million in fund balance.

The preliminary budget calls for reducing funding for the Canton Free Library from $30,900 to $25,900. Funding for the Canton Chamber of Commerce would increase from $6,000 to $7,000 while funding to the Canton Garden Club would increase from $1,000 to $1,500.

Ms. Ashley said department heads were asked to trim their budgets by 10 percent in the new budget.

“The department heads came through for us. They were asked to review their needs line by line and their past spending history. It wasn’t easy because they were asked to cut 10 percent last year,” she said.

The mayor also credited Sally A. Noble, the village’s clerk and budget officer, for her role in developing a budget that held down expenses.

Mrs. Noble said the 5 percent increase in water/sewer rates is projected to increase the water revenues to $852,000 while sewer revenues should climb to approximately $929,264. Those rates last increased in July 2012.

The village’s portion of tax exempt property has climbed to 66 percent, meaning that 34 percent of property owners cover 100 percent of village property taxes, Ms. Ashley said.

The new residence halls at SUNY Canton are tax exempt, which played a role in increasing the village’s overall percentage of tax-exempt properties.

Given this scenario, the mayor said the board felt that increasing water and sewer rates was a more fair way to spread out expenses over a larger base of people than just property taxpayers.

“Everyone uses water and sewer. This is a way to spread out the burden,” she said. “The fiscal stress on the property owners paying taxes is not sustainable. The shrinking of our village tax base is an area of great concern.”

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