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November 3, 2016 - 2:15pm

Town of Darien's approved preliminary budget holds the line on special district taxes for 2017

posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Town of Darien.

The Darien Town Board on Wednesday night approved a $3 million preliminary budget that keeps tax rates for its sewer and water districts in check and also renewed a contract with the Darien Chemical Volunteer Fire Company that keeps the tax rate the same as last year.

"I'm pleased to say that we will not need a public hearing to override the tax cap," Supervisor David Hagelberger said as about a dozen people looked on at the Town Hall. "The tax rate for fire protection will be held to this year's cap adjusted value of .68 percent."

Town residents will pay $1.05 per $1,000 of assessed valuation ($105 per year on a home assessed at $100,000) per terms of the $267,713 one-year pact with the fire company.  The town is obligated to pay $253,160 to the fire company by March 15. The additional $14,553 will be derived from revenues generated by Genesee County's revamping of its workers compensation program from assessment based to employee based.

Once again, there is no town tax in the general fund or the highway fund, while taxes to residents in the sewer district and various water districts either remain the same or decrease for 2017.

In sewer district No. 1, which takes in the hamlet of Darien Center, the levy is $395 per unit -- down 1.8 percent from last year.

In water district No. 3, the rate is $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed valuation -- down 9 percent -- and in water district No. 5, the rate is $284 per unit -- down 11 percent, Hagelberger said.

All told, the budget is $3,057,479, with the town contributing $539,249 from its unexpended fund balance and the residents contributing $346,857 hrough taxes.

"Last year, we used $4,000 short of $800,000 to put on a highway garage addition, wilth four new bays," the supervisor said. "Even with this year's amount, we're OK, having about $1.9 million in reserves (accumulated through savings and sales tax surplus)."

Hagelberger said Darien, like most towns and villages, is "heavily dependent upon sharing sales tax revenue with Genesee County" -- funds that enable the town to operate.  

The budget reflects minimal (1-2 percent) increases to elected officials.  The highest paid is the full-time highway superintendent at $58,687, one of seven full-time town employees who receive health insurance through the town.

On another front, Hagelberger reported that 482 of 869 postcards sent out by the town to gauge the community's feelings about a proposed new water district have been returned. The early results show that most property owners are against the measure.

Thus far, the tally has 294 opposed, 183 in favor, five undecided and 387 not yet returned.

While 60 percent of the cards returned reflect opposition to the water district -- which would cost property owners around $1,275 annually in debt service and water usage -- Hagelberger said it's too early to make a valid determination of the outcome.

"We're still collecting information from property owners," he said, adding that the board doesn't want to put a deadline on returning the postcards. "It's not a vote. The real purpose is to find out if we should proceed or not. If we had a tremendous amount opposed, we wouldn't proceed. If we had a lot for it, then we would. Right now, I would say it's a mixture."

He did acknowledge that a town resident, Trina Goodman, is circulating a petition seeking signatures from those opposed to creating the water district. The project to deliver public water to those who currently have wells calls for taking out an $18 million loan for 38 years to cover the debt service, with the overall cost being reduced by a $6.8 million grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

"She has the right to circulate the petition, but I don't see how that provides any more information than we will get from the postcards," he said.

Goodman contends that the project is "simply too expensive" and that Genesee County could be putting pressure on the town to make this happen, which Hagelberger emphatically denied.

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