The 2021 budget for the Town of Spencer calls for a tax rate decrease of 6.07 percent.
Details of the budget were decided during workshop meetings in the fall, and the public hearing was held in November. The tax rate decrease reflects an increase in assessed values due to the recent real property revaluation.
Spencer Town Supervisor Allen Fulkerson summarized the following information for Random Harvest: the budget increase is 7.75 percent, the tax levy increase is 6.49 percent, the tax rate is down 6.07 percent due to the increase in the assessed values or tax base, which went from a little more than $165 million to over $190 million.
The increase in proposed budget spending is mainly because of the costs to replace infrastructure, as bridges all over the town need repair. Also, one pickup will be replaced next year, and the tractor/mower lease payment authorized later in the December meeting will be added to the 2021 budget.
Health insurance was increased five percent, and it should be noted that the December payment was waived as there is a surplus due to the lack of claims. General insurance for the town highway equipment and buildings was up less than two percent. Pay increase for town employees is one percent across the board.
The town board is still struggling to sort out its website hosting issues. Fulkerson told the Spencer Town Board at its Dec. 15 meeting that Digital Towpath, the current hosting site, requires a 30-day notice to cancel their annual contract. Fulkerson learned this after searching fruitlessly for a copy of that contract in the town office files. Not finding one, he called Digital Towpath and learned he had just missed the 30-day cancellation deadline, and the town was obligated to renew with them for another year. He did learn that the town owns its domain name and can have it transferred over to a new site. In the meantime, should the town continue to build a new website as proposed by town resident Sander van Dijk? The board discussed this and agreed that a better website sooner rather than later is preferable. Fulkerson said he would call van Dijk and determine what they can do for this year. When the new site is up and running, it will be less expensive for the town and much more user-friendly then the current site.
The Hulbert Hollow and Hart Road bridges are now both open with only the final payments to be sent. The Hart Road bridge came in under budget by about $900, and the Hulbert Hollow bridge ran over by $10,000. The cost overrun happened because the original design bids were too expensive for the town to afford. They asked Hunt Engineers to remove the temporary by-pass and go with a detour instead, to save money. Removing the by-pass from the project also spared damage to the front yard of the taxpayer whose property would have been appropriated for the by-pass. This meant revisions in the design and a second bidding process, hence the cost overrun. The board was pleased with the work done by Silverline, the construction company, and so was the neighbor who said the workers were very respectful of his property. The board authorized the final payment and closed out both of these projects.
The other major discussion of the evening was purchase of a new mower. The current tractor and flail mower were purchased used and have seen many repairs. The town budgeted for a 2020 purchase but had not yet bought one. After much discussion they settled on leasing a new tractor and rotary mower for three years, with an option to purchase for one dollar at the end of the lease.
Councilman Michael Roy noted that it would save several thousand dollars in interest doing the three-year lease instead of the five-year. The mower attachment on the tractor is to maintain shoulders and back slopes of ditches.
Fulkerson told the board that during 2021 various agencies would be designing and holding public hearings on rehabilitating two dams that are part of the Dean Creek Watershed flood control project. Both dams are on private property; one is on Pelto Road at the top of Burheight Glen and the other is on Dean Creek. The dams date back to 1955 when the floor control project was built. According to the New York State Department of Conservation (DEC) and a federal agency that was involved in the original project, both dams were recently rated a “serious hazard” and are in need of thorough rehabilitation. Construction is slated for 2022.
After a brief discussion the board voted to purchase new payroll software and tech support for $5,180 out of this year’s budget. The current software is quite old and does not do everything needed. Fulkerson checked with both the town of Candor, who uses it already and recommends it, and the town bookkeeper, who said it looked easy to set up and use.
In response to a question, Fulkerson said the town has received three applications for the vacant Superintendent of Highways position. The board plans to review the applications, conduct interviews, and hopefully appoint someone in the near future.
The next meeting of the town board will be on Jan. 12 at 6 p.m.