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Eldred abandons tax cap bust

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ELDRED, NY — The Eldred school board presented a revised 2019-20 budget and announced that rather than subject taxpayers to a 4.95% increase, they would instead see a decrease on their next tax bills.

This is due to the fact that the Millennium Pipeline compressor station located in Highland has gone online and will be subject to tax, based on its new assessed value in this tax collection cycle. Although final assessment values will not be known until the end of March, the newly revised budget includes the pipeline at a value of $50 million. It was reported at the meeting that the cost to construct it was $62 million.

At that value, the pipeline company will contribute approximately $700,000 in school taxes. This is more than the amount that would’ve been raised by the now-abandoned plan to exceed the tax cap.

In addition to a slight decrease in the amount of individuals’ bills this September, property owners will not lose their property tax relief check, which is granted to taxpayers when a taxing authority does not exceed the tax cap. The relief check is a form of progressive tax in that those with lower incomes benefit from a higher amount of relief. Superintendent Dr. John Morgano said that the district couldn’t justify subjecting homeowners to the loss of that check when the budget can be increased in following years.

The budget anticipates increased spending of 2.01% on increased taxes of 2.3%, which is the amount of the tax cap. District treasurer Caleb Russell said that the budget will be tight and that, if certain other revenues are not received, some anticipated expenditures will not be undertaken. These include a request from Rep. Aileen Gunther’s office for $95,000 to fund the hiring of two school resource officers, and a request from Sen. Jen Metzger’s office for $75,000 to pay for an additional Kindergarten teacher. If the funds from Metzger’s office are not realized and enrollment requires the hiring of a second Kindergarten teacher, funds will need to be appropriated from other line items in the budget.

The biennial resurfacing of a parking lot will be delayed for a year, which frees up approximately $30-40 thousand for other needs.

Morgano and Russell emphasized repeatedly that the individual taxpayer will not see an increase above 2% in their taxes over last year’s level in the subsequent 2020-21 tax year.

Russell also stated that Eldred has the second lowest tax rate in the county.

The board unanimously adopted a resolution that extended Morgano’s contract for an additional year, extending to 2024, and reported that Morgano declined to accept the salary increase contractually owed to him this year.

Board member Scott Hallock announced that the former Eldred Preserve property had in the past been subject to tax reductions due to forestry exemptions, but when the use of that land changed, it was subject to back taxes. As a result, the district will receive $68,628 from the county.

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