By Joshua Maloni
Village of Lewiston Mayor Terry Collesano expressed concern last week over the re-enacted Town of Lewiston town tax. He suggested some village residents might not be aware of their new obligation. So, on Tuesday, he, Trustee Nick Conde and counsel Joseph Leone met with Town of Lewiston Supervisor Steve Broderick and Finance Officer Martha Blazick to discuss the matter.
The town tax was re-established last fall because "The fund balance has disappeared," Blazick said.
Village residents only contribute to the general, or A, fund. Confusion arose when the tax bill mailed out last month listed the entire town tax levy of $1,045,048, which includes both the A fund ($545,448) and the highway/drainage-town outside village, or DB, fund ($499,600).
Last week, Blazick said she had no control over what appeared on the tax bill. She assured village residents they'll only pay for the A fund.
In the meeting this week, she explained all Lewiston residents - town and village - are now paying for the A fund, which includes items such as the town clerk, the assessor's office, the supervisor and the Highway Department superintendent.
"Any elected official, who's elected throughout the town, is in the A fund," Broderick said.
Blazick said, "The items that are in that budget, in the A fund, have been in the A fund for years and years and years. The difference is, in 2005, (the Town Council) made the decision to discontinue the town tax. Because we had CWM money; we had tipping fees; we had all this other money coming in, that we could pay for those things. But as those things have disappeared, we need to reinstitute that town tax."
"The A fund has always been comprised of these same elements," Leone said. "And so, village residents, prior to 2005, were always paying their fair share of that A fund, because it was for the whole town. From 2005 forward, there wasn't a town tax. So, the village (residents) paid a village tax, because they lived in the village, but didn't pay any portion of that town tax on the A fund, because there wasn't any - for any resident of the town. But this year, the town tax has been reinstituted. And, as a consequence, the A fund needs to be funded, and that needs to be contributed to by village residents, as well as people who live outside the village."
"Nobody paid on the A fund for the last 12 years. ... It was funded through other means," Broderick said. "And those other means have dried up."
"And the amount that is being taxed is just the total expenses less the revenues that are still coming in, to come up with a net difference, that is based on assessed value," Blazick said.
Village residents are taxed 64 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. That is their contribution to the A fund.
Town residents will fund both the A and DB funds at a rate of $1.36 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The B fund, which includes such line items as the Lewiston Police Department and cultural organizations, is subsidized through sales tax.
Collesano said, "I still have some questions and doubts in my mind. However, as the budget officer put to us, is that there are some charges on the B fund that actually could be going to the A fund, which would not be a benefit to the village."
"That could be. That could be moved (in a subsequent budget)," Broderick said. "They're staying in the B fund at this point, but they could be moved to the A fund."
"We've left everything at the status quo. We have not changed those things," Blazick said. "There's a lot of things we need to be looking at, and really assessing, but that's stuff that takes time."
"Because of this, we would work with the village, because this is my first budget," Broderick said. "I think the communications need to be open with the village."
Leone said, "If the police department were to be moved over, the cost to the village residents would be phenomenal. It would raise everything almost four times ... what the current rates are."
"The police would be in the A fund if the village didn't contribute $284,000," Broderick said. "By doing just general math, if they stopped contributing, and (the LPD) were included in the A fund, (what village residents pay) would be a lot higher. Their contributions would be a lot higher."
No one offered input as to what could be moved into the A fund, but, moving forward, "Communication (will be) the key," Broderick said. "Open communication. I think that was the big problem here. There wasn't communication. So, I think, from now on, we'll just have to communicate more."
"I agree," Collesano said.
The Town of Lewiston budget is online at http://www.townoflewiston.us/town-budget. Residents can call Town Hall (716-754-8213).