The Town of Hamilton voted to raise taxes by 17 percent for their 2013 budget at Thursday’s town council meeting. The Ham-ilton Town Council, which is composed of four council mem-bers and the town supervisor, had been working on their 2013 bud-get through public workshops held on October 4 and October 23, as well as a budget hearing on November 1. The final vote for the budget took place last week.
In a public statement released early last week, the Town Council commented on how prior town budgets have not been sustain-able, but that for next year’s they hope to implement changes that will alter this precedent.
“The 2011 budget reduced taxes by using $250,000 from the excessive fund balance (as identi-fied by the state comptroller’s of-fice audit),” the release said. “That one-time use of funds to reduce taxes could not last. We are now in the second year of a three-year phased increase in taxes to get us back to ‘a pay as you go bud-get.’ In 2013 our income from all sources, plus our taxes, will equal our actual expenses.”
Sophomore Amanda Beatrice attended the final budget vote for an anthropology class, and said that the public was presented with background information to the subject matter.
“The issue of the budget tax in-crease was one of the first concerns to be raised,” Beatrice said. “A conversation developed between the public and the board about the budget, where the board explained the need for the budget tax in-crease. The public was given charts on budget comparisons of the last 12 years in Hamilton to help further understand the budget.”
“At the meeting the board vot-ed unanimously to approve the 2013 budget which resulted in an increase in the tax levy of 17 per-cent,” Supervisor of the Town of Hamilton Eve Ann Shwartz said.
While the increase as a figure might appear dramatic, Shwartz specified that the tangible effect on those dealing with the rise does not convey a severe change.
“This sounds like a lot,” she said, “but the actual impact on the tax payers will only be an in-crease of $30 for a property worth $100,000. The board also voted to exceed the state mandated two percent property tax cap.”
Shwartz explained that she feels that these implementations will bring positive outcomes for the town, while still realistically dealing with necessary precautions.
“I do believe that the 2013 budget is a step in the right di-rection,” Shwartz said. “The budget is transparent, our spend-ing is prudent and we have been looking at every avenue we can find ways to save money in all aspects of town operations. Nev-ertheless the cost of operating the town (like all businesses with employees) will go up each year. For example, the cost of health insurance and retirement both increased approximately 15 per-cent and as a result we will need to raise taxes each year by more than two percent.”
One individual who was of partic-ular importance in these changes was town board member Peter Darby.
“He has been the chief advo-cate of developing a sustainable budget where we fund each year’s expenses with taxes raised in that year,” Shwartz said. “In the past the town budget used unallocated funds balances to reduce taxes to an unsustainable level.”
While Shwartz feels that the changes to the budget will be productive, she recognized that certain individuals were not quite as enthused.
“There was one person who came to the board meeting last Thursday to express concern that our town’s fund balance was still too high and by implication that we should once again use money from the fund balance to reduce taxes,” Schwartz said. “I don’t agree with him. I believe that we have a sound plan and legitimate reasons for keeping the fund bal-ance at approximately $650,000 by the end of 2013.”
Shwartz noted that the funds made available through the tax increases would go directly into benefiting the town.
“The money in the fund is reserved for future capital pur-chases for the highway depart-ment, funds needed to cover three months cash flow for the town and the remaining money is available to pay for unexpected emergencies such as storm dam-age, which is happening with greater frequency.”
Contact Amanda Golden at [email protected]