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Stillwater budget proposal would keep tax rates virtually unchanged

Wednesday, October 23, 2013
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— Stillwater residents would see virtually no change in their local tax rates next year under the town budget proposed by Supervisor Ed Kinowski.

The town’s $5.45 million spending plan is funded almost entirely by sales, mortgage and property tax collections and about $521,000 from GlobalFoundries. Special districts in the town account for about $2.4 million in additional spending. Tax rates in these districts would fluctuate slightly.

“I’m proud to be able to say we’ve kept our taxes in check,” Kinowski said of his proposal.

Public safety and the highway department were his top priorities when determining spending. He said the town’s continued investment in both areas has resulted in a strong police force and court system and has produced quality roads and parks.

His spending proposal also includes raises for town employees, with an average increase of about 1 percent. He said that raises are possible only because the town eliminated three positions through attrition in recent years. Because of developments at Brown’s Beach and growth in town parks, Kinowski said the town may end up hiring a person to oversee parks and recreation.

The big-ticket spending items in the proposed capital budget are a dump truck, a pickup truck and a water line project costing about $6.8 million, which will be partially paid for by money from GlobalFoundries.

In order to pay for the town’s spending, Kinowski’s budget uses almost $2 million in property taxes, about $488,000 in reserve funds and almost $3 million in other revenues, which includes payments in lieu of taxes from GlobalFoundries.

His budget projects modest growth in sales tax collections — 3 percent. The revenue expected from mortgage tax collections is budgeted to stay at this year’s levels, although Kinowski noted that collections have slowly been creeping up since the housing market slump about five years ago. The town would be left with about $1.2 million in its reserve fund at the end of 2014 under the proposed budget.

Kinowski said he would like to start lowering town taxes but doesn’t want to do it too soon because it would cause the town’s payments from GlobalFoundries to decrease. “I’m almost inclined to keep [taxes] flat to ensure the money,” he said.

In a few years, though, after the town has used the GlobalFoundries money for some larger projects, town officials will likely explore lowering taxes. “I can’t predict just yet,” he said.

Almost $1 million in taxes will be collected by the special districts in the town, with the biggest portion of funds going to the fire department, which has a $742,320 proposed budget.

 
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