38 and counting: No general town taxes eyed in Lee 2020 budget


TOWN OF LEE — “It’s number 38,” Lee Supervisor John Urtz told the Town Board Tuesday night while presenting a preliminary 2020 town budget that calls for a 38th straight year of no general town taxes.

Board members expressed support for the $2,612,742 spending plan, which they will review in a workshop session Monday before it proceeds to an Oct. 29 public hearing and then is considered for final approval.

Regarding a 38th straight year of no general town taxes in the proposal, “I think it’s great,” said town councilman Joseph Goetz. Councilman L. James “Jamo” Jones Jr. added “I like it.”

The Oct. 29 public hearing will be 7 p.m. at Lee Town Hall, 5808 Stokes-Lee Center Road.

The preliminary town budget normally includes the town fire district budget, but Urtz said he did not include it in the 2020 proposal because a preliminary fire district budget was not received by Sept. 30. The fire district’s proposed 2020 budget that was reviewed Monday night by fire commissioners is $298,178, compared to $298,243 for 2019.

The total 2019 town budget including the fire district budget was $3,231,592. Among 2019 town budget expenses that are not part of the 2020 proposal were a new sand/salt storage building for the highway department, and a new electronic control system for the water department’s pump house.

In preliminary 2020 town budget details, including comparisons to 2019:

• $837,462 for the general fund, down from $1.21 million. Urtz said he included $100,000 for Lee Town Park improvements, adding the board would have flexibility to use funding for such items as new playground equipment, further work on a walking trail, or further work on the tennis courts.

Pay increases are included for all town employees, equating to an approximately 2 percent raise, said Urtz, who noted the last increases were two years ago. He would not detail employees’ pay amounts, pending the Monday work session that will include discussing them along with other budget items. The preliminary budget conceivably could be reduced or revised by the board within its various categories, but cannot be increased, he observed.

• $1,088,870 for the highway fund, up from $976,950. Included are estimated expenses for vehicle replacements including $230,000 for a new dump truck/plow truck and $30,000 for a new pickup truck.

• $648,000 for the town water district, down from $704,050.

No taxes are included for the general fund and highway fund portions of the budget. The water district is supported by flat-rate bills to customers, which increased by $20 for the six-month billing due by the end of October with a similar increase in line for another six-month billing due by the end of April.

The only taxes involve the town fire district budget, along with taxes in five isolated street-lighting districts that Urtz said will total about $38,400 for 2020.

Lee’s long streak of no general taxes is “a result of the sales tax. It really is,” Urtz said of one of the budget’s primary revenue sources. Sales tax proceeds that are distributed by the county are projected at about $1.4 million for 2020, he commented. Among other revenue sources are state financial aid and mortgage taxes, he added.

The town’s financial reserves include about $2.1 million for its general fund and about $300,000 for its water district, Urtz remarked.

If the budget is revised during the board’s workshop session Monday, said Urtz, a special meeting would be scheduled to act on a tentative budget.


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