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Tax cap law issues lead to another possible override law

August 22, 2012
By JENNA LOUGHLIN - EDITOR (comments to , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

WESTFIELD - With the tax cap law still not completely understood, the town is once again looking to pass a local override law.

The Town of Westfield Board of Trustees will hold a public hearing on the proposed local law 2-2012, a local law to override the tax levy limit, at 7:25 p.m., before its regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 5.

Just as the town did last year, the law is designed to cover the town should it make a mistake in calculating its tax levy limit. In addition to allowing for any errors on the town's part, two other issues will have impacts on Westfield's 2013 budget - the bonding of the special Barcelona water district and workman's compensation insurance.

"We're not sure exactly what we will be facing, but we're getting ready," Supervisor Martha Bills said at the town's meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 1.

According to Bills, the tax levy limit calculations were incorrect in 70 percent of the municipalities the New York State Comptroller's office audited since the law took effect.

Also discovered since the law passed is that municipalities who buy into a workman's compensation insurance cooperative through Chautauqua County will have to add this expense, along with the taxes collected to pay for the expense, into their budgets. In the past, even though the municipalities collected the taxes to pay for the insurance through property taxes, it was never on the municipalities' books.

For Westfield, this will be around $20,000 for 2013. What this means for the town is, even though it will not be increasing taxes, it will be collecting more taxes on paper. Thus, this collection of more taxes will be included as part of the town's tax cap amount. While this may not be above the calculated tax levy limit for Westfield, other municipalities will not be so lucky.

Finally, the town still does not know when bond payments for the Barcelona water district will be made. If it takes place anytime in 2013, it will impact the budget by causing the town to raise more money than it did last year, another factor in the calculated tax levy limit.

The local law, good for one fiscal year, will allow the town to not have to worry about these issues being counted against its entire budget.

"It's just the unknowns," the town is attempting to cover for with this law, Bills said.

Also at the Aug. 1 meeting, though Code Enforcement Officer and Building Inspector Jim Pacanowski was not at the meeting, a question was raised by William Bauer about the remains of the house on North Portage Street which burned down over a year ago. Town Attorney Joel Seachrist answered saying he was in contact with the property owner's attorney and their client has agreed to remove the debris. Seachrist added he expects the work to be done sometime within the next month, but that setting an actual date will be between the landowner and the company doing the removal.

When Bauer, a neighbor of the property in question, complained there is no time frame and that he keeps hearing from the town that the situation will be dealt with and it is not, Seachrist responded, "You haven't heard it from me."

In other business, Jim Herbert warned the water level in the harbor of Daniel Reid Pier in Barcelona were reaching a critical low point.

"It's going to get worse," he said. "It's in bad shape."

The issue is a combination of the water level dropping while the bottom of the lake keeps rising.

"It's gonna take a lot of money to get it fixed," Herbert said.

During public comment, town resident Janet Nass asked if the changes recently made to the residential/agricultural zoning laws allow for anyone with a restaurant or other business to move in to the area. Bills responded it does, but there would need to be a special use permit submitted, and reviewed, followed by a public hearing before it would be allowed. She pointed out there were already businesses in residential/agricultural areas and added the changes did not allow for industrial businesses in those areas. Seachrist chimed in noting that, even before this recent change to the zoning laws, a pig farm could have - and still could - move in to a residential/agricultural zoned area without any permission, something he thought might be more impactful next door than a restaurant

Nass asked if the town has ever said no to a SUP to which Bills responded it has.

In other business, bids for new light poles for Daniel Reid Pier opened on Aug. 10 at noon. Also, the town has submitted its final application for the grant from the United State Department of Agriculture along with all materials as required.

"Now it's a waiting game," Bills said. "We'll see what happens."

Additionally, Bills reported the Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation is hiring a lead consultant to look at creating a regional water system, starting with Dunkirk, Pomfret and Portland. She has been invited to a meeting in the fall.

"It may take a while before regional water becomes a reality," she said.

Finally, the board unanimously passed a resolution saying the town will complete archeological studies as required for the installation of water lines in Barcelona, and Town Clerk Tim Smith reported the phone number for the Dog Control Officer has changed to 753-6431.



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