By Terry Duffy
Lewiston property owners will likely be looking at the return of a town tax, albeit a nominal one, when all is said and done with the town's still-unfinished $15.764 million budget for 2016.
That much was learned Thursday when the Town Board held its public hearing on the proposed plan. The meeting saw limited actual discussion from board members and the public.
Town Finance Office Martha Blazick reviewed the particulars, which she said still remain a work in progress. She then presented a tax rate of less-than-one-half-cent per thousand of assessed valuation for Lewiston property owners. While small, it does represent the return of a town tax in Lewiston for the first time since the mid-1990s.
"Our tax cap is $35,409, which ends up being a tax rate of .000423, which ends (up) being on a $100,000 home ... an additional $4.23," Blazick said as she presented the numbers to Supervisor Dennis Brochey and board members Ron Winkley, Bill Conrad and Beth Ceretto. Council member Al Bax was absent.
"I guess we have to consider that," Winkley said. "Modern tipping fees are down; CWM is down ... we have to start preparing for an eventual town tax. So I'd have to say we have to include that in the budget. We've all talked about it - for two years, for three years."
Conrad was in agreement.
"The rate we're allowed to raise the taxes is so low, we've been so far behind the eight ball on what we're able to do ... with a tax increase," he said. "It's pretty incremental."
"We had to do something here," Brochey added.
The public hearing itself was short with just one comment. Resident Amy Witryol addressed the board on Modern tipping fees. She suggested its estimates on monies expected from the company were rather conservative, based on the current spike in waste shipments to Niagara County - namely at the Covanta Energy facility in Niagara Falls, which has seen an upsurge in waste shipments from New York City.
"You have to look at the whole pie. Demand is increasing," Witryol said, as she suggested to Blazick and the board the town needs to start examining in greater detail Modern's activity data and what it can glean from the company via tipping fees.
Other than revealing the rate and discussing an adjustment to Town Clerk Donna Garfinkel's salary, which is already contained in the plan, the board took no action on the budget Thursday. Blazick said she wanted to review some unfinished items further with the board, both in coming days and at the board's 6 p.m. Monday work session at Town Hall.
The town has until Nov. 20 to approve a plan.