The Tonawanda Town Board on Thursday unanimously adopted a $95.1 million budget for 2013 that reduces property taxes for the first time in 13 years.
As a result, the tax bill for the owner of an average home in the town, assessed at $50,000, will drop from the current $1,193.03 to $1,191.33 next year. That’s a decrease of $1.70, or 0.1 percent.
At the town’s current equalization rate of 47 percent, a home assessed at $50,000 in the town has a market value of about $106,000.
The tax decrease results from a greater amount in town reserves from this year than anticipated.
Next year’s budget is $1.4 million higher than the current budget. That is a 1.5 percent increase.
Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana said the biggest reason for the increase is additional costs for hospital and medical insurance for town employees and retirees, which amounts to $15 million, up $1 million.
“Another significant increase in spending is an additional $800,000 in contributions to the retirement system for our employees,” Caruana said.
Personnel services and employee benefits make up 66.67 percent of the 2013 budget appropriations. “Last year, it was 62.64 percent,” Caruana said.
The town also is making additional debt payments of $92,2000 on Phase I of the Parker/Fries sewer interceptor project, as well purchasing seven new police vehicles and a new backhoe for the Highway Department.
Prior to Thursday’s preliminary budget hearing and the subsequent adoption of the budget, the Town Board pursued some personnel cost reductions, including eliminating a proposed raise for police patrol officers.
“I want to mention that there is going to be no salary increase again this year for elected officials and that town council members will be making less than they did back in 2003, the last time their salaries were raised. In fact, they were reduced by $1,000 [annually] in 2006,” said Caruana.
The 2013 budget includes an $8.2 million appropriated fund balance and retirement reserve, compared with $6.1 million that was held in reserve for the 2012 budget. Caruana said the increase in the reserve will help offset the loss of tax revenue resulting from a property tax settlement with NRG Huntley, which will make a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, instead of paying property taxes. The PILOT helped reduce the 2013 town tax levy by $2.1 million, to $43.7 million, down 8.1 percent from the 2012 tax levy of $47.6 million.
The state deadline for adopting a budget is Nov. 20.