SOMERSET, NY — Officials in the Town of Somerset, which is just off Lake Ontario in Niagara County, are painting a gloomy picture of the town's financial situation.
On Wednesday at a board meeting, the supervisor informed taxpayers of a 113 percent tax increase.
"It's significant, I'm not happy about it, I wish there was another way," said Dan Engert, the Town of Somerset supervisor, defending the town's 2018 proposed budget, which calls for a 113 percent tax hike.
REPORTER: What do you say to local businesses and taxpayers?
"What I would remind them is to keep it in context," he said adding that the town's big economic engine -- Somerset Operating Company, a coal-fired power plant has seen declining revenue. Engert says in 2008 the company's tax payment to the town was $1.3 million — next year it will be $139,000.
"The fact remains that declining revenues in the plant at some point we had to make up the difference," Engert said.
That's why the town is proposing the tax hike.
How would the jump affect taxpayers?
Take for example, a homeowner whose property is assessed at $100,000 — right now they're paying $79. With the tax hike, that same homeowner would pay $168, on top of an increased refuse and garbage fee which is also in the proposed budget.
REPORTER: As you've been looking at things at the power plant and revenues going down, why wasn't this thought about, forecasted earlier?
"The alternative was we start incrementally raising taxes to make up for the revenue we are also going to have to override the tax cap," Engert said.
Which is something he says town leaders didn't want to do.
"The board deployed the strategy that we were going to continue to hope that we get an economic development project we had a couple major development projects," Engert said.
But, those plans didn't pan out. Under the proposed budget, the town would have to override the tax cap this time around, which is something the town board would have to vote on.
The town supervisor says that there will be a public hearing on the proposed budget this Wednesday and that the final budget should be voted on by the end of the month.
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