By Marcello Iaia
WESTERLO — The repair of a leaking roof in Westerlo will drain extra funds from Westerlo residents in the 2013 tax year.
Supervisor Richard Rapp said an override of the state-set 2-percent cap on tax-levy increases to around 5 percent was necessary because of $150,000 in repairs to an old roof at the former town hall on County Route 401. The building is still used as the highway department garage, as a State Trooper satellite office, and for the town court. Rapp said the town judges are catching water drops in buckets in the courtroom when it rains.
The board passed a law to override the state-set cap and adopted the $2.69 million spending plan on Nov. 14. The vote was 4 to 0 on both motions by the all-Democratic board, as Councilman Gregory Zeh resigned the week before, after the sale of his Westerlo residence.
Rapp was unable after the Dec. 4 board meeting to provide the exact tax rate, but said it was increased in 2012 by around $5 to a rate of $300 per $1,000 of assessed property value. This year’s increase, he said, was unusually high.
“Probably it’ll be up $30, $35 from last year,” said Rapp. “Of course, we’re not assessed at 100 percent.” He estimated the town last underwent a property revaluation in the 1950s.
A property with a $2,000 taxable value, for example, would pay approximately $70 more in property taxes to the town. Most properties in Westerlo have taxable values under $3,000 in the 2012 final assessment roll.
The roof on the old town hall, Rapp said, will have to be completely restored in two of its three sections.
“They’d probably take it off, put some new plywood, put the
rubber hot-mix, and go from there. It’s lasted a long time,” said Rapp.
The purchase of three trucks was the reason for an override of the tax cap last year, Rapp said.
The only raises in the preliminary plan, for library workers, were voted down before the final adoption, with the one “nay” coming from Rapp, who favored the raises.
The financial auditor, Bob Fischer, was allocated $8,000 for 2012. With his leaving, the board anticipates a higher cost for an independent auditor, putting $15,000 for the position in the new budget.
Reimbursements from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have not all been received, Rapp said. He estimated that $600,000 in FEMA funds for damages sustained in 2011 during tropical storms Irene and Lee have come in, with more on the way. Repairs to Lobdell Mill Road and Tan Hollow Road have been completed, but further work will be done this coming spring.
“I want them to run on it in the winter, pack it down, and then put more stone on, then pave it,” said Rapp. “That’ll be a good road when it’s done.”
Also in the spring, two culvert pipes will be installed on Boomhower Road.
Health insurance costs and pensions are a large burden on towns trying to stay under the tax limit, as they are increasing, sometimes by double digits. Westerlo’s employee benefits will increase in 2013 by $18,918, to $266,418.
Rapp said four vacancies left by two retiring highway department operators, a foreman, and a building inspector will not be filled and can account for the modest increase in benefits.
In other business at recent meetings, the town board:
— Voted, 4 to 0, to appoint Keith Wright as the new Westerlo highway superintendent. John Nevins retired from the position in October;
— Heard from Supervisor Rapp that the town Republican Committee elected Jack Milner as its new chairman in the town.
“With the hard times and our town’s condition, I believe it’s past time for a two-party town board that will work together for all residents and the good of our town,” Milner said in a speech.
Milner announced he and other town Republicans had donated money to pay for the Westerlo town seal to be placed on town trucks;
— Heard Councilman Edward Rash thank colleagues and attendees during his last regular meeting on Dec. 4. He had submitted his resignation letter in November, he said, so a replacement could have a “trial basis” before the next election; and
— Rescheduled for Jan. 3 its re-organizational meeting.