By Terry Duffy
Progress continues toward adoption of the Town of Lewiston’s budget for 2021. On Thursday evening before an empty Town Hall board room, the Lewiston Town Board held two public hearings – one on the town’s $18,353,414 preliminary budget plan, and on a second to consider approval of a one-year contact for the fire protection districts.
Finance/Budget officer Jaqueline Agnello presented a plan that forecasts cuts as well as some increases once it is adopted. Reviewing the numbers, for example, it shows the A Lewiston general whole town account of $2,922,831 in appropriations; $2,141,626 in estimated revenues, $49,283 in appropriated fund balance, and $731,922 to be raised by taxes. This reflects a decline of $6,990, down 0.9460%, and a total decreased tax rate of $0.0160 – minus 1.89% – from the 2020 adopted plan.
In the part town tax – outside village account (DB-highway drainage), it shows $3,104,146 in increased appropriations, $2,717,796 in estimated revenues, $82,000 in appropriated fund balance and $304,350 to be raised by taxes. This reflects an increase of $24,755, a change of 8.8539%, and a tax rate of $0.0309, 7.96% from the 2020 adopted plan.
And in the town’s SF fire protection account under special districts, it shows $1,490,890 in appropriations, $2,507 in estimated revenues, $0 in appropriated fund balance and $1,488,383 to be raised by taxes. This reflects a decline of $12,532 (minus 0.8350%) and a total decreased tax rate of $0.0342 (minus 1.67%) from the 2020 adopted plan.
Agnello presented tax rate examples for a $200,000 assessed property in select Lewiston neighborhoods both above and below the hill, including the Village of Lewiston. Lewiston’s assessed valuations of properties are not at 100% full assessment throughout the town, so there are some variations.
For a $200,000 assessed property on Powell Lane, she said the total decrease in the flat rates was $3.9201, reflecting a total decreased tax rate of $0.0334. Divided by $1,000 of assessed valuation, it shows a total dollar of tax rate decrease of $6.68 and a total decrease of $10.60 to the Town of Lewiston.
For a $200,000 assessed property on North Hewitt Drive above the hill, she said the total decrease in the flat rates was $3.92, reflecting a total decreased tax rate of $0.0155. Divided by $1,000 of assessed valuation, it shows a total dollar of tax rate decrease of $3.10 and a total decrease of $7.02 to the Town of Lewiston.
And for a $200,000 assessed property in the Village of Lewiston, she said the total decrease in the flat rates was $0, reflecting a total decreased tax rate of $0.0160. Divided by $1,000 of assessed valuation, it shows a total dollar of tax rate decrease of $3.20 and a total decrease of $3.20 to the Town of Lewiston.
The second public hearing involved consideration of a one-year contract for the fire protection districts, by the following fire companies at the following rates: Sanborn – $323,601; Lewiston No. 2 – $323,601; and Upper Mountain – $323,601. Lewiston No. 1 was not included, as it sees partial funding by the Village of Lewiston.
With no one in attendance save for this writer, both public hearings went through with virtually no comment, save for some “pat on the back” accolades by Town Board members and town officials. Unlike other municipalities that are facing tax increases, Lewiston, thanks to its financial benefits realized from being the host community for the New York Power Authority (plus Modern Disposal benefits), has been able to weather downturns in the economy – particularly during COVID-19 – better than others.
“I think you guys did one good job! It’s not every day when we see a decrease. Thank you very much,” Historian Marjorie Maggard said.
“Jacquie worked very hard with all the department heads,” Supervisor Steve Broderick said as he expressed his approval. “All the department heads put off any type of equipment purchases they really needed, and hopefully the services won’t be affected one bit. Jacquie did a great job, the department heads did a great job, and we’re just lucky enough to approve it, eventually.
“Everyone worked very collaboratively together, and we straightened it all out, not alone,” Agnello said.
“There were a lot of ‘Nos,’ ” Broderick said in response.
“Jacquie wants all the accolades when it’s a good budget; she doesn’t want the responsibility when it’s a tough budget,” Councilman Bill Geiben said to laughs.
With that, the public hearing on the budget closed.
On the brief public hearing on the fire districts that followed, Broderick stated, “There’s a 0% increase to the fire districts. It’s the same as last year.
“The contract expired. I talked to the chiefs; due to COVID and everything going on, they were more than willing to sign a one-year contract for the previous year. They understand the situation and they were very happy with repeating the contract for one more year.”
The budget is scheduled for adoption at the Town Board’s Nov. 9 work session, toward submission to the state comptroller’s office by Nov. 20.