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Porter eyes property tax increase

Sat, Oct 20th 2018 07:00 am
Supervisor Johnston cites numerous cost issues, flat revenue
Staff Reports
Be expecting a tax increase for 2019, if you're a property owner in the Town of Porter.
"The tax rate is going up; that's the bottom line," said Supervisor J. Duffy Johnston on Friday as he discussed the town's 2019 tentative budget of $5.185 million - one that brings with it an estimated 2 percent increase in the town tax rate to $2.007156 per $1,000 of assessed valuation - up from last year's rate of $1.9678 per $1,000. "It is what it is. We can't keep dipping into our reserve funds."
He said the town is facing a number of increases. Included are 2 percent increase in wages for town employees; a wage increase for town DPW summer help, from $10.50 to $12.50 per hour; health insurance cost increases; a water rate increase; and 2 percent increase requests for the Ransomville and Youngstown fire companies and Youngstown and Ransomville libraries.
"We are going to raise the water rates," Johnston said.
He attributed the increase to an earlier 15-cent per thousand gallons increase passed along from the Niagara County Water District last year that the town absorbed on its own. "We didn't raise them when the county raised them on us."
"That, and our ongoing situation with the Village of Youngstown," Johnston said of the town's continuing disagreements with the village over water rates. "I want to enter into a new contact with them."
He expressed frustration over the village's stand over the matter and its wishes to form its own water district.
"They don't want to buy their water from us; they want to form their own water district. I don't think they have the resources to join, but if they want to, I'm not going to hold them back.
"I just don't think they have the resources to join the group. There's not one other village in Niagara County that's a member of the water district."
As a result, look for the town water rates to increase by 20 cents per thousand gallons, he said.
Other factors impacting town finances include a stagnant return on sales tax receipts, property taxes that have remained the same, and other incomes to the town that have remained stagnant or have dropped.
Johnston said the town netted a mere $800 as a result of the 2 percent gate tax receipts agreement from CWM Chemical Services LLC and forecasted it will be even less for 2019. "This is a huge impact from the years of receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's going to be lower than that this year."
And yet another issue is lingering costs for past upgrades and purchases the town is addressing. Among them, a $250,000 town inter-transfer loan covering an earlier sewer upgrade that remains unpaid, and a $50,000 loan for a pickup truck purchase, likewise unpaid.
"Nothing's been paid on that," said Johnston of the sewer upgrade loan. "That's $20,000 a year."
"Look, I don't want to borrow from fund balance. You can't continue to do that. There's things that I've got to handle.
Johnston said there are other town projects that need to be addressed. They include a $40,000 roofing project on a town garage; an electric vehicle/charging station will require a new bond anticipation note; and Recreation Department rental/storage costs at the Stephenson School in Ransomville that will be in the range of $21,000 yearly.
He said the town has been awarded grant funding for the following: Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, $34,250; Fort Niagara Beach Front Park, $348,312; and Porter on the Lake Park, $210,244.
By the numbers in the 2019 budget, of the $5,185,705 total in appropriations are the following lines: General Fund A, $1,510,541; General Fund B, $1,077,908; Highway DA-Townwide, $1,679; Highway DB-Outside Village, $1,177,285; Water Department, $371,245; Sewer Department, $518,586; Ransomville Light, $10,800; Porter Lateral, $6,300; Ransomville Fire, $261,078; Youngstown Fire, $188,288; Lakeshore Sewer Improvement Area, Phases I, II and III, $53,000; Mallory/Groveland Road Project, $3,870; and Harrison Road Project, $12,125.
"Everything else has gone up, except for my revenue. The sales tax receipts, the property tax - they've all stayed the same. But insurance, employee raises, funding increases, they've all gone up. It is what it is," he said.
Johnston said town bookkeeper Mary Siegrist, he and the Town Board members are still crunching the numbers on the final 2019 town budget plan that needs to be adopted by Nov. 20.
He said he expects the town would be holding a public hearing on the final plan in early November, with an actual date still to be announced.

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