On or about Jan. 2, property owners in Clinton County towns opened their mailboxes to find their 2008 town and county tax bills. Undoubtedly, some people were pleasantly surprised, while others, especially those whose property was reassessed upwards, were not quite as happy. While the majority of tax rates have declined, the total taxes levied by the county's 14 towns for their general and highway funds have increased from $9,324,387 to $9,985,500 or 7.1 percent. Many elements play a part in determining the amount of the final property tax bills. Revenues from such sources as mortgage taxes, cable television fees, justice courts, state aid and sales taxes reduce the amount to be raised by taxes on the town level. Sometimes towns find a new revenue source such as in Ellenburg and Altona, where both communities are planning on collecting significant revenues from wind tower companies in 2008. A good industrial business tax base tends to hold down the property taxes for homeowners. Spending practices and priorities are also extremely important factors. Good roads, excellent recreation programs, zoning, parks and modern buildings all come at a cost. A general budget includes expenses usually incurred in the town hall such as those expended by the supervisor, town board, town clerk/tax collector, justice court, planning, zoning and recreation. Highway department administration expenses are also included in the general budget. Highway budgets include the expenses directly associated with maintaining highways such as equipment, equipment maintenance, staff and road salt. The Towns of Plattsburgh, Champlain and Beekmantown, noted with a + in the accompanying chart, use their portion of the county's sales tax revenues to reduce town general fund and highway fund taxes while the other towns use sales tax revenues to reduce their share of county taxes. Plattsburgh, for example, has $0 tax rates for general and highway, but its taxpayers pay a higher county sales tax rate than the other towns. The Towns of Champlain, AuSable and Dannemora, noted with an * in the accompanying chart, have villages within the town boundaries. Figures obtained by the Free Trader do not include budget and tax data for the villages. Reporter's note: Readers are cautioned not to jump to conclusions when reviewing the
. Budgeting is a very complex process. Our tables only state the budget and tax numbers for 2008; they do not reflect the reasoning or accounting or other items that were a part of their formulation. The tables also do not include the taxes associated with either fire/ambulance protection or water/sewer districts.