Roxbury budget lowered to 0% tax hike

By Pauline Liu
Roxbury residents who attended the public hearing to override the state’s two percent property tax cap last Thursday were in for a pleasant surprise.

Newly re-elected Town Supervisor Tom Hynes told the audience of about 30 people, that there was no longer a need to seek an override. He explained that with much hard work, the budget had been recently whittled down, to that there will be a zero-percent tax levy increase.

Still, some property owners showed up at town hall determined to give Roxbury officials a piece of their minds. Several residents called on town leaders to be fiscally conservative, including one furious woman, who was identified as Rosina Montana. “How could you raise taxes when people can barely afford to live?” she asked. When she was told there would be no override, she continued to scold the town board members. “Next year, you might stuff it down our throats,” she added.

Town Clerk Diane Pickett, who won re-election unopposed, explained that the town was recently able to save about $12,000 by making minor changes to the town’s health insurance policy with Blue Cross Blue Shield Excellus. While the costs have been reduced by about 15 percent, Pickett said there will be no loss in benefits. The town was also able to save money by deciding not to purchase a new large truck, sander and plow for the highway department at a cost of about $233,000.

Instead, the town board agreed to use the $75,000 from highway department’s reserve fund to pay for a new smaller truck.

Pickett explained that minus exclusions, such as the sewer use fees and the fire district, the total levy for 2012 is $2,555,249, which is $105,000 lower than last year. With the general fund reduced, town officials say there will be no need to raise taxes.

In the town meeting that followed, there was a discussion about property revaluation. “We haven’t had a reval in 38 years!” said Roxbury Republican Committee Chairman Ed Dalski.

Town officials agree it’s been over 30 years since the last reassessment and they explained that they are looking into a revaluation of the town’s parcels. With Town Assessor Kim Cammer leaving at the end of the year, Supervisor Hynes said that the town may be hiring someone to do the revaluation “in-house,” which would save the town money.

Town Attorney Kevin Young agreed. “This person has done revals,” he said. “With him doing it and getting a few part-time people, it can be done in-house. We’re still trying to hire an assessor.”