The towns of Clay and Salina released their tentative 2008 budgets in presentations to the town boards and the public last week. Both budgets call for tax increases to cover rising costs. Both supervisors called the budgets fiscally responsible.
Clay: 3.9 percent tax increase
Supervisor James Rowley provided the town board with the tentative budget at Monday night’s meeting. He stressed that the figures are very preliminary.
“I would stress to you that it’s tentative,” Rowley said. “There’s plenty of opportunity to change this.”
The town budget has three parts: the town of Clay including part of the village of North Syracuse, the town excluding the village and the highway budget. The total budget for all three is approximately $12.5 million, an increase of approximately $400,000 over the 2007 adopted budget.
The budget proposed a 3.9 percent increase in the tax rate for town residents — a $1.96 more per $1,000 of assessed value.
Unlike other towns, Clay’s tax rates are not based on the full value of the home. The assessed value is a percentage of the home’s full value.
“Our equalization rate for 2007 is 4.45 percent,” Rowley said. “To get your full value, you take the assessed value on your tax bills and divide by .0445.”
Rowley said that Clay’s equalization rate means that the proposed increase doesn’t hide extra costs, like a raised assessment.
“In towns where assessments are based on full value, figuring out your tax increase is a two-part calculation,” he said. “You have to figure out how much your assessment went up, and you have to know the actual tax rate increase. In Clay, our assessments don’t really change. I’d say 90 percent or better [of the properties in the town] don’t change year to year. So when I say it’s a 3.9 percent increase, it’s really just that 3.9 percent.”
Rowley said the budget does not include any new positions or position cuts, and the fund balance will remain at its current level. The budget also includes a 4 percent pay increase for all elected town officials as called for in their labor contract.
Rowley will give a formal presentation on the tentative budget at the board’s Oct. 15 meeting. The board will accept public comments on the budget at that time.
Salina: Budget-to-budget increase of 7.9 percent
Meanwhile, in Salina, Supervisor Charles Iavarone’s budget called for a 7.9 percent increase over the 2007 budget.
At the hearing in which he presented the budget, Iavarone, who prepared the budget with the help of Deputy Supervisor Michael Giarrusso called it fiscally responsible. He said the fact that he is not up for reelection freed him from “worry of smoke and mirrors” concerning tax rates and property values.
Like Clay, Salina’s is a three-part budget, comprised of the town including the village of Liverpool, the town outside the village and the highway department. The total budget for all three, according to the proposal, is $9.4 million, an increase of nearly $ 1 million over last year’s. The proposal calls for $6.6 million to be raised through taxes.
Fourth Ward Councilor Mark Nicotra, who is running for Iavarone’s seat, called the budget “irresponsible and offensive to all taxpayers in Salina.”
In a release sent to The Review last week, Nicotra said Iavarone Giarrusso, Nicotra’s opponent in the supervisor race, have “failed the residents of Salina.”
“This budget, like the one I voted against last year, taxes too much and economizes too little,” Nicotra said in the release. “If this budget is any indication of how Mr. Giarrusso intends to run town hall, the taxpayers of the town need to be very concerned.”
Iavarone did not return repeated calls to his office for comment on the budget or on Nicotra’s reaction to it.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.