Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — At first glance, the Somerset town board’s proposed 2013 town budget seems a bit unbelievable.
Compared with the numbers in the current budget, the 2013 property tax levy is 20 percent lower, and the general tax rate is 48 percent lower.
That’s unexpected, considering the town’s largest source of non-tax income, Payments in Lieu of Taxes from Somerset Power Generating Station, fell by over $500,000 in the past year.
Town Supervisor Daniel Engert is upfront in pointing out that townwide reassessment has a lot to do with this budget story.
This year, the town’s first revaluation project since 1999 uncovered almost $33 million more in taxable property value, and brought the town’s equalization rate up to 100 percent. All other things being equal, the more value there is to tax, the lower the tax rate is.
Revaluation doesn’t explain the bottom line entirely, though, Engert said.
The 2013 tentative budget shows town government spending is being reduced across the board.
In the face of a fiscal crisis triggered by the power plant PILOT reduction, Engert said, town employees and contractors pulled together and identified spending lines to cut without decimating any town services: speculative economic development activity, equipment and supplies, some employees’ man hours.
Town department heads were asked for, and delivered, year-over-year budget cuts of 15 to 20 percent, Engert said.
Townwide, only one employee, the supervisor’s confidential aide, may receive a $100 per month pay raise; everyone else, including union and non-union employees, elected and appointed officials, will go without.
The town assessor’s post, currently vacant, will be reduced to part-time.
In the highway department, two full-time employees vacated jobs this year and the haven’t been replaced. Instead, Superintendent Ken Bigelow will try to recruit two laborers to work part-time as needed.
Even the private, non-profit Barker Volunteer Fire Co. pitched in, by agreeing to a fire protection contract rate cut in 2013. It’ll give its full range of services to townspeople for $209,500, or $15,500 less than it’s being paid this year.