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Norwood budget would lower taxes for most residents

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NORWOOD — The village tax rate will drop to $10.35 per $1,000 of assessed value, a lower rate than it was in 2008, if the proposed budget is approved.

The village’s proposed total tax levy is $508,793, an increase of 2.6 percent from last year’s $495,791.

The tax rate will drop even though the levy has increased because of higher revenue from other sources, including state government, and last year’s reassessment of all Potsdam properties, which raised the overall value of all town land.

Most Norwood residents will see their taxes go down, although those whose assessment went up by 10 percent or more may see an increase, according to Mayor James H. McFaddin.

“It was a slight increase in the levy, but a significant decrease in the rate,” he said.

He attributes the low rate to an ongoing agreement with employees to keep raises to 1 percent or lower, as well as a commitment to have village workers perform as much necessary maintenance as possible, rather than contracting jobs out to other companies.

“We’re collecting less tax from residents this year than we have for the last several years,” Mr. McFaddin said.

Last year saw a massive tax rate decrease, from $14.41 per $1,000 to $11.64. The savings came from several village employees who had retired and were replaced. The new hires began working part time with no benefits before being moved to full time, providing savings for the village.

The total budget is about $1 million.

Mr. McFaddin said the increase in the levy will be used to buy a new backhoe and to pave more roads and build more sidewalks this year.

The budget does not include money for two major village projects that have been in the works for some time.

The rubble of the old Norwood Elementary School, which burned down in a suspected arson fire in 2009, still stands. Cleanup efforts were stalled last year when the second phase of the job was found to be more expensive than originally suspected; the proposed budget does not include the money needed for the cleanup.

In addition, the budget does not include funding for a proposed rail museum.

Both of these projects were delayed because of rising workers compensation costs, according to Mr. McFaddin.

The village has had eight workers compensation claims in the last eight years, he said.

The most recent, and most costly, was brought on by an accident involving a firefighter attempting to do something he was specifically told not to do, Mr. McFaddin said.

The incident cost the village tens of thousands of dollars and spurred the creation of new rules at the fire department.

The department and the village agreed on a contract this week.

Norwood has banned the use of the fire department headquarters below the municipal building for all nonofficial uses. In addition, the village has required more safety training for the department, as well as better documentation of which members are qualified for which tasks.

One proposed new rule, which would have capped the department’s membership at 45 members, was lifted. The membership now is capped at 60.

The cap initially was proposed amid fears that the Affordable Care Act would require communities to provide health care for volunteer fire departments. This was not the case.

If approved, the budget will take effect May 1.

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