Ronald W. Nesbitt

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Jul 14

Growth in Webster: Assessment Numbers = $$$$$

Posted on July 14, 2014 at 11:34 AM by PattiAnn Schultz

Last week I wrote about growth in Webster and the pluses and minuses to the latest construction boom taking place right now. This week I would like to talk about the impact on assessment the construction has on the town budget.

Many times over the course of the past year residents have echoed that the current spike in building construction should lower the taxes in Webster. This might be the perception when looking at the construction but in reality this is not true. What it does allow is for the town to cover some of the increases in the town’s budget that come with the everyday operation of town services.

For example, on July 1st of every year the Town Assessor delivers to my office the town’s new preliminary assessment number that the Town Board and the School Board will use to figure out what tax rate will be used in the coming fiscal year.  For 2015, the preliminary assessment for the town and school district is up just over $28 million. I say preliminary because this number will go down in the coming months as small claims hearings take place on residents who are protesting their assessments, and some assessments are reduced because of these hearings. This is also true for some of the businesses in town who have claims pending in State Supreme Court. Their outcome could also affect the overall assessment number.

For purposes of this article we will just say the $28 million stays as the real number after adjustments, up and down.  I would take that number and divide it by 1,000 which equals 28,000 times the current town tax rate of $4.54.  The Town Board will have $127,120 more to work with for this year’s budget. While this is a pretty large number it does not even come close to covering the 10% to 19% increase in health care premiums for 2015 that cover our 150 full time employees at over a $2 million premium number. It will help cover some of the premiums but it does not cover the total increase.  So the continued myth that new construction lowers taxes is not accurate.

Because the Webster School District has a higher tax rate, using the same formula, 28,000 times the (new proposed tax rate come August) of $23.85 equals $667,800 this new construction has provided in revenue for the Webster Central School District.

Years ago the increases in assessment, which equals increases in tax dollars the town  received, covered almost the cost increases in doing town business with money left over for fund balance. However, inflation in petroleum, pension and health care alone now far exceed the dollars we are bringing in. Add to that the New York State 2% property tax cap and there are few dollars left in the budget for anything.

I also hear that the town should outright stop all new construction in town because of the feeling Webster will look like Greece in the future. That is also easier said than done. It is the legal right of a land owner to sell his/her land to whomever and construct a building if it meets the current zoning code for that piece of property. The only way to really stop construction is for the town to buy the land and designate it as “Open Space” or “Park Land”; that way it would never be developed. This did happen a few years back when residents voted to fund $5.9 million bond to outright purchase 1,100 acres of land that will never be developed here in Webster. The town developed trails on some of the properties and left others as open space. If Webster residents wanted to spend monies to purchase additional lands to stop future development I would support such an effort, but that would mean additional tax increases to pay for this investment in land.

It is good to have a slow steady growth in assessment to help offset expenses in the budget, but it does not cover all of the costs. That is why the Town Board continues to look for cost cutting measures like outsourcing lawn mowing to save $50,000 in the budget. If we did not have construction, like some towns in Monroe County, you would have constant tax rate increases from your Webster town government. Using all means necessary, your Town Board continues to strive to keep taxes under control as evident by the fact that town taxes have only gone up twice in the past seven years here in the Town of Webster.

As always, if you have any questions about your town government, please feel free to contact me during regular business hours at (585) 872-7068; or email me anytime at  

Ronald W. Nesbitt