Spending up, but no general town taxes, for Lee residents

Published Oct 10, 2018 at 4:00pm

TOWN OF LEE — Although spending is up over $700,000 from the prior year, the town’s tentative 2019 budget marks a 37th straight year of no general town taxes.

A tentative $3,231,592 spending plan for 2019, including use of an unexpended balance of $318,300 from 2018 to help cover expenses, was approved Tuesday night by the Town Board.

A public hearing on the budget was set for Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at Lee Town Hall, 5808 Stokes-Lee Center Road. The board will consider final approval by early November for the budget, which takes effect Jan. 1.

Lee Supervisor John Urtz had projected last month that the budget again would include no general town taxes. After Tuesday’s meeting, Urtz cited some of the key spending increases compared to the current 2018 budget of $2,508,341:

• $1.21 million for the general fund, up from $811,788. A new sand-storage building for the town highway department is among the factors, plus some additional town park improvements that ultimately may be offset at some point by anticipated state financial aid.

• $976,950 for the highway fund, up from $803,750. Factors include the purchase of a new payloader for the highway department to replace an old vehicle.

• $704,050 for the town water district, up from $556,343. A new electronic control system is planned for the town water system’s pump house, plus the water supervisor position has become full-time instead of part-time.

No taxes are used for supporting the general fund and highway fund portions of the budget. The water district is funded by flat-rate bills to customers.

The only taxes within the budget involve funding fire protection expenses within the town fire district, with the 2019 rate expected to be about the same or slightly lower than 2018, plus taxes in five isolated street-lighting districts that Urtz said will see no change in 2019.

The town in prior years has typically put some money from unexpended balances into its financial reserves, Urtz said. But he noted the impact of the various capital expense items in the 2019 spending plan.

Even with the larger use of the unexpended balance, the town still has about $2.1 million in reserves for its general fund plus about $500,000 in reserves for the water district, Urtz said.

Regarding a 37th straight year of no general town taxes, Urtz said “it’s wonderful we’re in a position where we can offer that to residents of our community.”

He added “it’s nice to be able to do that” amid increases in some other tax-related costs such as for education. But some other local government-related budgets have recently avoided major tax impacts, he said, praising Oneida County for example for “doing a good job also” with its
budget which calls for no property tax increase for 2019.