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Posted on March 19, 2018 at 9:37 AM by PattiAnn Schultz
The following statement was added to a post on the Town of Webster’s social media site. I am sharing this because after reading it, the writer of the statement does have some valid points to make.
“People bemoan the loss of green space, and too often now use government's power (initiation of force) to usurp property rights (a natural right) to get it. It happens all the time using zoning power. Look at the golf course issue in Penfield as yet another example. Or they use money taken by force -- taxes -- to buy land. But it never occurs to folks that government actually “created” the problem of lack of green space by the egregious property taxes that make it unaffordable to hold land that is not developed. And so continues the vicious cycle of big government: use power to "fix" a problem, which creates another problem, which requires more government power...”
I continuously hear that Webster residents want local government to buy lands to prevent the building of homes so that more students won’t be filling our schools which in turn means more school taxes. This is what recently occurred in the town of Penfield.
It was a major reason in Penfield, and to some degree it is mentioned a lot on social media in Webster, that 100 new homes would increase school taxes and the Town of Webster should buy some available lands to prevent the raising of our school taxes. In Webster school taxes continue to go up each year but enrollment is down over 600 students since 2010. Why is it that no one is questioning why school taxes haven’t decreased with lower enrollment?
I know what you are thinking, “Here we go – the Supervisor is going “bash” the Webster Central School District.” So let me state for the record that I believe that Webster has an outstanding school district and phenomenal school teachers that make this a reality. I appreciate what they have done for me during my days in Webster schools, and what they do today for my grandkids.
What continues to baffle me is that it seems that everyone is willing to raise town taxes to purchase land without trying to figure out the cause of the problem, which many say is that school taxes are too high. Webster residents are constantly contacting me about selling their undeveloped lands not because they don’t want to keep them but they can’t afford the taxes any longer and the major reason is high school taxes in Webster. Let me remind you 62% are school taxes, 25% County taxes and 13% Town of Webster taxes. Yet the outcry against a new housing development falls on the town government of Webster to prevent more homes thus preventing higher school taxes? Senior land owners constantly repeat that taxes are out pacing their income levels and they need to sell for their retirement.
Please don’t fool yourselves into thinking a new Webster Comprehensive plan is going to save green space in town. If someone wants to sell their land because taxes are high they will sell regardless of what the lands are zoned for use. The only way to save a lot of green space again is for the town, once again, to bond a few million dollars to purchase more green space. However, I have not heard any residents push to raise town taxes again for open space as was done in the early 2000’s.
We here in Webster are fortunate in that Webster has 1,426 acres of open space (lands that will never be developed0. I feel privileged that I have been personally been involved in the acquisition of these lands since the early 2000’s. This includes the Whiting Road Nature Preserve, the Gosnell Big Field, Gosnell Big Woods, the Finley property at Four Mile Creek, and many additional acres just adding beautiful green space to our community.
This open space does not include the 11 town parks and park districts (totaling 333 acres), or the County owned Webster Park (at 542 acres), or the Village of Webster’s 49 acres at the Well Fields, or the 72 acres that the Monroe County Water Authority owns. There are also the Planned Development Rights the town purchased which have 408 acres that sit at State Road and Salt Road. So to say that we haven’t done enough to preserve open space in Webster is just not accurate. There are no other towns in Monroe County that can say that they have preserved 1,426 acres of land that will never be developed. This brings an added benefit to all Webster residents and has allowed the Friends of the Trails to make over 19 miles of trails throughout Webster for everyone to enjoy.
So blaming the town for growth in development because school taxes might go up is like closing the barn door after the horse has all ready left. What we all should do is take a better look at why the Webster Central School District taxes are impacting housing development so much in Webster. We should be asking the School Board for a line-by-line budget to see where our tax dollars are being spent.
The answer to stopping more housing developments is for the town to purchase all remaining vacant land in town to once and for all stop Webster development. If you don’t want to do that, more and more residents who own land will be selling in the future to developers. They will want to build more houses and the argument will continue about school taxes.
What I’m hearing now, about the town buying the land, is that Webster residents understand that Webster Town government is a lean, low taxing entity, providing outstanding services to the community at reasonably the lowest tax rate, and should not be held accountable for other entities higher taxes.
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 email@example.com.
Ronald W. Nesbitt