Ris­ing Sun pro­poses nearly 8-cent tax hike

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— For the first time in 20 years, there will be an in­crease in the prop­erty tax rate above the con­stant yield.

It’s a move to coun­ter­act the 22 per­cent drop in the value of the 901 prop­er­ties in Ris­ing Sun, plus ac­count­ing for an al­most 10 per­cent in­fla­tion­ary in­crease in op­er­at­ing costs.

Go­ing from 40.6 cents to 48 cents per $100 of as­sessed value, an in­crease of 18 per­cent and nearly 8 cents over the con­stant yield, will help the town avoid hav­ing to dip into its re­serves to bal­ance its bud­get. In the cur­rent bud­get, there is a pos­si­bil­ity that as much as $89,000 will have to be pulled from sav­ing by

RIS­ING SUN

the end of the fis­cal year.

But it’s not all bad news, as the com­mis­sion­ers are con­sid­er­ing action that could have some prop­erty own­ers re­al­iz­ing that in­crease is go­ing to cost them less than $1.

“It’s bloody bril­liant,” Com­mis­sioner David War­nick said.

The plan aims to pro­vide tax re­lief, while keep­ing cur­rent ser­vices and in­creas­ing prop­erty val­ues.

If ap­proved, start­ing July 1 the monthly bill for wa­ter, sewer and trash will drop $37. Those costs, in­clud­ing the Bay Restora­tion Fund and debt ser­vice for the town’s wa­ter and sewer plants, will be moved to the real es­tate bill, which can af­fect the amount of money due on state and fed­eral taxes.

“We’re go­ing to save them a lot on the fed­eral re­turn if they item­ize,” War­nick said at the Wed­nes­day night bud­get meet­ing. “It re­duces their tax­able in­come.”

Town ad­min­is­tra­tor Calvin Bo­nen­berger said that for the av­er­age prop­erty owner, the tax in­crease means pay­ing an ad­di­tional $153.80 per year.

“Di­vided over 12 months, it’s $12.82 per month,” he said, com­par­ing it to the typ­i­cal house­hold bud­get he noted that is less than the cost of ca­ble tele­vi­sion. “We still have to charge for it, but we’re mov­ing it to the real es­tate taxes. Plus we are one of the few towns to give res­i­dents that 2 per­cent re­duc­tion if they pay their prop­erty tax bill on time.”

For a home­owner in the 25 per­cent tax bracket who owns a home val­ued at $209,500, the abil­ity to deduct that cost at tax time could mean a big­ger re­fund.

War­nick had not crunched the num­bers yet on the state taxes, but ex­pected even more dis­counts.

The bud­get deficit comes from re­cov­er­ing from sev­eral years of le­gal en­tan­gle­ments in the midst of build­ing the new waste­water treat­ment plant and de­vis­ing the new wa­ter sup­ply sys­tem. Town of­fi­cials have re­peat­edly stated that the law­suits have cost hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars that could have been spent on road re­pair and main­te­nance, for ex­am­ple.

An­other headache is the on­go­ing re­pair project at Ryan Drive. What started as a wa­ter leak re­pair has evolved into the dis­cov­ery of shoddy con­struc­tion in the 40-year-old neigh­bor­hood off East Main Street.

It’s the un­ex­pected that has caused the most angst, how­ever, Bo­nen­berger said.

“About $59,000 of that $89,000 deficit was for snow re­moval,” he said, re­fer­ring to the Jan­uary bl­iz­zard.

Bo­nen­berger said the board has been us­ing re­serves to bal­ance its bud­get for sev­eral years.

In an anal­y­sis com­par­ing Ris­ing Sun’s tax struc­ture, prop­erty val­ues and rev­enue gen­er­ated, the town still falls into sev­enth place among the eight in­cor­po­rated towns, above only Ce­cil­ton in the amount of tax rev­enue spent per per­son. Bo­nen­berger pointed out that the town tries to do the most with the least.

“As much of a black eye as the town takes, we have struc­tured the bud­get to get the most bang for the buck,” he said. “If prop­erty val­ues had gone up 22 per­cent, we wouldn’t be hav­ing this con­ver­sa­tion.”

To­ward that end, the new bud­get has added per­son­nel for the prop­erty main­te­nance pro­gram with an eye on tar­get­ing va­cant and bank-owned prop­er­ties blight­ing the town.

“We’re in­vest­ing ag­gres­sively into eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, im­prov­ing the busi­ness cli­mate which adds jobs,” he said, adding that 80 per­cent of the rev­enue gen­er­ated will go to­ward eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

A pub­lic hear­ing on the bud­get will be held next month, as early as June 7.

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