Board seeks public comment on 2010-11 budget

The DeWitt Town Board will vote on its 2010-11 preliminary budget after it hears feedback from a public hearing set to begin Wednesday morning and conclude Monday evening Nov. 8.

The total tax increase this year for the three major funds, the General Town, Part Town and Highway funds, is $0.30 per $100,000 assessed value, a 30-cent increase, from $4.12 to $4.42, over last year. According to Comptroller John Curulla, three significant reasons for the tax increase are an increase in police officers wages as a result of arbitration (4 percent for 2008 and 3.85 percent for 2009), NYS ERS and PFRS pension contributions increases, as well as a decrease in mortgage and sales tax revenue.

"We have been meeting often since January of 2010 in anticipation of the county eliminating 100 percent of the sales tax in its attempt to balance its own budget," said Councilor Kerry Mannion, also head of the budget committee. "We have done everything possible to keep our rate low."

All departments are being analyzed closely, he added, and since the town recently adopted the New York State early retirement incentive, the board expects the program will further reduce labor costs. Board members, however, must wait until the end of the calendar year to see how many employees formally register for the incentive.

"We expect several positions to be consolidated through the early retirement program, enabling the town to reduce its costs," Mannion said. "Going forward, this will save the town hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Additionally, the town of DeWitt eliminated funding to the DeWitt Community Library and the East Syracuse Free Library.

"The DCL is disappointed that the town of DeWitt will be unable to fund the library in 2011, but we do understand that the town is facing serious economic issues," said DCL Executive Director Wendy Scott, adding that staff had hoped to receive at least a modest amount in 2011.

In 2010, the town funded DCL with $85,000, about half of which was recovered through a small increase in taxpayer funding through a proposition on the Jamesville-DeWitt School District ballot.

Scott said the cut in funding will force the library to look at alternatives means in order to maintain its current level of service.

"I imagine that we will need to reduce some of our budget lines, seek more external funding from sources such as grants and corporate sponsorships and have more fundraising events throughout the year," she said.

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