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Prepare for your tax bill

Residents will notice a big difference in their property tax bill next week.

Lysander property owners will see a 36 percent increase from last year's bill, while Van Buren property owners will see an even more substantial 63.2 percent increase.

The property tax bill includes both town and county taxes. However, the towns' tax rates decreased this year: in 2010, a Lysander home assessed at $100,000 paid $179 (not including special districts) vs. $132 in 2011; a Van Buren home assessed at $100,000 paid $158 (not including special districts) vs. $146 in 2011.

While part of the reason for the decrease in property taxes for each town was due to both municipalities taking sales tax revenues (which, had it not been taken, would have been applied to residents' county tax bills), officials also cut spending in both towns.

When county taxes are added to resident's bills, Lysander's (based on a home assessed at $100,000) increases $181 (from $502 in 2010 to $683 in 2011) and Van Buren's increases $312 (from $494 in 2010 to $806 in 2011).

According to County Legislator Rich Lesniak (representing the town of Lysander), the county portion of property taxes increased not only because the towns took sales tax revenues, but also because the county executive "vetoed almost $20 million in revenue that the legislators felt were reasonable projections."

"We had projected a higher increase in sales tax that would have allowed us to take more out of the county fund balance," Lesniak said, adding those figures were all but confirmed by the County Management and Budget. "Twenty million would have cut the rate significantly."

Lesniak added that because of the number of unfunded mandates from the state, the county needed to retain more sales tax.

"[We] had to provide all of the services that the State of New York mandates require," he said. "Sales tax collections cover all of the services that you see day-to-day: sheriff's department, highway department, economic development and so on. If we didn't have the state mandates, the county would have no property tax because all the other services are paid for by sales tax."

There is relief on the horizon, however, with sales tax projections higher than expected, Lesniak said.

"[Increased sales tax projections show] we are coming out of a recession," he said. "However, for the county, we will have to watch what the state of New York does with their budget. They could take all of our gain away."

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