DeWitt residents to vote on elected tax position

Streamlining government, a hot topic these days, is a driving force behind many discussions between officials in local municipalities. In DeWitt, the town board passed a resolution during a special meeting Sept. 2 to put up a referendum that will abolish the receiver of taxes position and consolidate the department with the town clerks. The vote came in 4-0 with Supervisor Ed Michalenko and councilors Irene Scruton, Kerry Mannion and Vicki Baker in favor. Councilor Ken Andrews voiced opposition at the meeting but was not present for the actual vote.

The current tax supervisor, Victor Vasta, who has held the position for 17 years, will retire in December 2009. The proposed law will abolish his position at the end of his tenure if the public approves the change. The public referendum will be held in the November 2008 election.

If residents decide to keep the elected position of receiver of taxes, potential candidates would have one year to prepare for the election. If the public chooses to eliminate it, the town would retain the function and have the year to prepare for the consolidation of the two departments -- that of the tax receiver's and of the town clerk's. Beginning Jan. 1, 2010, the two full-time staff members employed in the tax receiver's office would slide into the town clerk's office and work under its supervision.

Responsibilities and savings

Aside from the yearly collection of $60 million in taxes, the tax receiver is responsible for taking in $2 million in water fees every year. At the Aug. 11 regular board meeting, Michalenko estimated the savings due to consolidation would total almost half a million dollars over 10 years.

According to a statistical chart included in the proposal, DeWitt was compared to 19 towns in Onondaga County and ranked the highest in 2006 in overall tax receiver departmental costs at $159,190. Costs are based on the Jan. 24, 2007 memorandum from Karen Carney, director of real property, Onondaga County Department of Finance, to town supervisors.

Additionally, DeWitt stands fifth in pay to the receiver of taxes in 2008 and fifth in number of tax parcels in 2008.

To read the proposal in full detail, visit the town's web site at townofdewitt.com. Under the heading Latest News, click on More News, then click on General News. Once in General News, click on the link, "Town of DeWitt Proposal of Consolidation."

Alison Gibbons, a Syracuse University intern, contributed to this article.

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