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Hammond passes its 2013 budget

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HAMMOND — The Town Council on Nov. 13 passed a 2013 budget with a tax increase above the state’s 2 percent cap.

The town’s 2013 budget is $1,039,730, an increase of $136,921 over the 2012 budget of $902,809.

The levy, or amount to be raised by property taxes, will increase from $176,952 to $201,287, an increase of 13 percent. The tax rate will rise from 90 cents to 94 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The town has a fund balance of $400,000.

“The budget was very open and very we made it very accessible to residents,” said Supervisor Ronald W. Bertram. “We continually had all the tentative to the preliminary budget changes updated on our website. Tax increase was inevitable, but the board was able to keep it low.”

The increase in the budget reflects a plan to purchase highway equipment, including a tractor, snowplow and pay loader, over the next five years. The equipment costs more than $400,000. The town will set aside $65,000 next year for the purchases.

“It’s been my perception we spend everything we spend on the Highway Department,” said council member Howard Demick. “I am glad the comprehensive plan is coming into play. It may allow the town, if there is any money, to find some free money or grants to be able to participate in changing the face in downtown instead of on a pay loader. I’d like to see other things, especially change in the community.”

The total budget for the Highway Department is $590,000, approximately 60 percent of the town’s budget. That does not include the highway superintendent’s salary, Mr. Bertram said.

Mr. Demick said the board should be cautious going into next year.

“I would rather have tread carefully this year, then look at next year and see what’s happening with the county and state,” Mr. Demick said. “I think next year, we’re going to be right back here looking at this budget. We’ll probably have to decide with a little more clarity where we are really going to have to do things without seriously raising taxes enormously. I am not 100 percent sold on raising taxes.”

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