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Chester board proposes to curb taxes by changing health care plans

The Town Chester Municipal Center is now depending on the power of the sun to provide electricity, as arrays of solar panels were hooked up the last week in September. Savings from solar power, reduction in assessor's salary, a change in health care plans, and delay of vehicle purchases are all contributing to the town's ability to keep its 2013 budget under the state's mandated tax cap.

The Town Chester Municipal Center is now depending on the power of the sun to provide electricity, as arrays of solar panels were hooked up the last week in September. Savings from solar power, reduction in assessor's salary, a change in health care plans, and delay of vehicle purchases are all contributing to the town's ability to keep its 2013 budget under the state's mandated tax cap. Photo by Thom Randall.

— Despite facing various increases in municipal employee benefit costs, town of Chester leaders are calling for a 2013 budget with a tax levy hike that will be in compliance with the state’s mandated property tax cap, according to town Supervisor Fred Monroe.

The Chester Town Board convened in a special meeting Monday Oct. 1, discussing how to reduce ever-increasing employee health-care costs and how to trim a town budget that must provide for a 17 percent increase in employee pension espenses.

The board members then endorsed a tentative 2013 town budget that features total appropriations, general and highway combined, of about $3.6 million or 7.4 percent higher than the current budget of $3,348,958.

The budget calls for $977,468 to be raised by property taxes in 2013, an increase of $22,964 — 2.4 percent more than in 2012.

This tax hike complies with the so-called state two percent tax cap law, Monroe said, because the legislation allows municipalities particular amounts to pay for such expenses as pension increases and voter-approved construction projects. The state formula to determine whether a municipality is raising taxes under 2 percent includes factors such as increases or decreases in the value of property in the taxing district.

The 2013 town budget is subject to a public hearing in early November.

Although the town is mandated to pay an increase of about 17 percent in pension expenses for its two dozen employees, certain increases in revenue are expected to offset some of that increase.

The spending plan estimates that the town will receive $1.6 million in sales tax revenue through Warren County, a proportion of the county’s sales tax revenue divided between local municipalities according to their total property valuation — which is relatively high for Chester because of its lakefront properties.

The tentative 2013 budget also calls for $140,000 of 2012 fund balance to be applied to reduce the tax levy.

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