By Claire Walla
Despite a strong push by the village clerk to increase the tax rate for the coming year, North Haven Village Trustees have ultimately settled on a budget that keeps the tax rate right where it is.
For the Tentative 2012-2013 Budget, which is currently estimated to be $1,327,800, the tax rate will remain at 1.38 percent, making this the fifth year in a row taxes have been stable in the incorporated village.
“I think the tax rate at its current level is sufficient to cover our expenses,” said Trustee Jeff Sander at a budget work session on Tuesday. “The fund balance is healthy enough, and we never want to raise the tax rate if we don’t have to.”
Based on current estimates, Village Clerk Georgia Welch said the village’s fund balance will end up totaling about $600,000 to $700,000 by the end of the fiscal year in June. The final amount will depend on how many improvement projects — like replacing the roof at Village Hall — the village ventures into before then.
The proposed budget calls for using about $352,587 of the village’s current fund balance to cover next year’s expenses.
Though Welch said the village can certainly sustain these costs without raising taxes, she said it’s the future she’s worried about. The village is seeing slight increases in costs — its fire contract is expected to increase by about $9,000 for next year — but, additionally, Welch said the village’s assessments are not as grand as they had been in years past.
While this year’s assessment figure has not yet been finalized, Welch said the most recent number she was given came to $1,472,059,518. Though it’s a $5.7 million increase over last year, previous village assessments had risen by at least three times that amount. And the difference between the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 fiscal years was about $126 million.
Welch had proposed three budget scenarios outlining different tax increases so the village would not have to use any of its fund balance to cover expenses. However, Sander explained the village had budgeted very conservatively in the past — over-estimating certain expenses—in order to build-up a healthy fund balance. And he said there’s no danger in using some of those funds this year.
“I’ll acquiesce to whatever you want, but I don’t think it’s going to look good two years down the line,” Welch continued. “Mortgage tax and building permits are our main revenue sources, and they have decreased quite a bit in the last six years.”
Building permits have dropped from 117 last year to 80 this year.
“I’m just hoping that the assessments won’t change any more,” Welch concluded.
She said she’ll have the final figures from the town before the village’s public hearing on the budget, Tuesday, April 3.
Sander added, “And I hope we have a good year with building permits.”