"I believe the residents of this town will feel 60 cents per month is a pretty cheap price to pay to maintain services," Town of Niagara Supervisor Steve Richards said Monday as he presented his 2011 budget.
The town's tentative budget is $7.3 million, which is actually down $285,702 from the current 2010 budget of $7.6 million. However the amount raised by local taxes will be $2.04 million.
This means the homestead tax for residents would be $5.03 per $1,000 assessed value, up 2.3 percent. On an average home assessed at $60,000 this would mean a tax increase of only $7.20 for the year, Richards said.
The non-homestead (business) tax would be $8.71 per thousand assessed value, up 4 percent. For the average small business assessed at $60,000, this would increase taxes $20.40 for the year.
Even this small increase could end up being eliminated and taxes could decrease if the two or three employees currently considering retirement end up doing so before the budget is adopted, Richards said.
He noted he didn't consider the retirements as part of his tentative budget because they weren't final. "I couldn't figure my budget on if-so. I have to deal with the facts that I have," he said.
He pointed out that the Town Board has a policy of right-sizing government to match the declining population of the town.
"The downsizing of ourselves through attrition was one of the reasons, along with good, sound management of our budget, for Moody's raising our bond rating (to A1), which is unheard of in these tough economic times," he said, adding that he thinks Moody's also saw that "this town isn't scared to raise taxes when it's necessary and not scared to lower taxes when it's not necessary."
The budget for the third year deletes the lighting district tax, saving the average homeowner $20 per year, due to an agreement Richards made with the New York Power Authority. The budget also continues free trash removal for residents, saving the average homeowner $170 a year, due to Richards' negotiations with Allied Waste, a dump located in the town.
Richards noted the tentative budget reflects no reduction in services, staff or community events and continues funding for cultural programs, libraries and programs such as the Niagara Community Action Program and the historical society.
The budget includes a 2.5 percent pay increase for employees.
Richards said he wanted to commend the town's department heads, who all presented reasonable and sound funding requests. They realize that "in tough years, everybody's got to lean out a little bit," he said.
The budget now is in the hands of Town Board members, who will make any adjustments they see fit. A public hearing on the budget, before the board gives it final approval, will be held at a special meeting at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25.
Richards, a town small business owner, prepares his own tentative budget and doesn't have a budget director. He says he uses "the business sense I inherited from my father."
"The one thing I'm proud of is that taxes still are lower than they were 15 years ago when I took office," he said.
This year's homestead rate of $5.03 per $1,000 is actually lower than the 1999 rate of $5.70 per $1,000, "and we never reassessed or revalued," Richards said.