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By Kellen M. Quigley

Residents of the town of Concord could be looking at a tax increase of about 5.5 percent in 2020 after approval by the town board during its regular October meeting.

Before the meeting Oct. 10, the Concord Town Board held a public hearing concerning the preliminary 2020 town budget, which includes going over the state tax cap for the second consecutive year.

The total appropriations for the 2020 budget are $3,590,721.07, which includes the general fund, highway fund, joint van and youth funds and the library fund.

Although the budget is up about $60,000 from last year, the town is applying $70,000 less from its shrinking fund balance, which is part of why the town decided to exceed the tax cap.

Town Supervisor Clyde Drake said the town’s fund balances are getting down to levels that he considers “almost dangerous.” As a town board, he said they are looking at several ways to rebuild those to what he thinks is an acceptable level.

“For many years, we’ve lived off the fund balance that we have, and we no longer have the fund balance to apply to the budget,” said Drake. “That’s the main reason for the increase in the taxes.”

The tax levy for 2020 is to be $1,173,123.60, about a 5.5 percent increase from the current year.

Drake said the tax levy would see about a $22 increase for a home assessed at $40,000. He said since the average house in Concord is valued at about $66,000, taxes would see an average increase of $36.32 per household.

“There is no longer a penalty for going over the tax cap,” he said. “One of the reasons we started to use the fund balance to keep the town from getting penalized. It’s sort of coming back to bite us now, but it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”

Drake said some neighboring municipalities also went over the tax cap by more than Concord. He said the town board was originally looking at about a 7.8 percent increase and knocked it down to 5.5 percent.

“I think we could have stayed under (the tax cap),” said town councilman William Snyder, who voted against going over the tax cap. “I recognize a lot of the work that went into this, and we came to a lot of agreements and a lot of adjustments were made in the right direction. … We’re close, but I think we could have gotten there.”

Looking forward, the town board is going to look at ways to build up the fund balance to a healthy level without having to do major tax increases to better control it in the future.

Denise Ciszak, secretary for the town supervisor, said if the town continued to keep taking from the fund balance without going over the tax cap, in a couple of years there would be nothing left to take from and the town residents could be hit with a tax increase of 20 percent or higher.

“That’s where we’ve got to stop,” she said. “The new tax cap was all well and good, but it wasn’t realistic.”

For changes in the budget, slightly more than $20,000 in increases is going toward a 2.5 percent wage increase to town employees, Drake said. Another increase comes from what the town pays for the Control Center went up about $25,000.

“It’s up 9 percent from last year, at no fault of this board at all,” said councilman Phil Drozd. “Our hands are tied on that. We don’t own any of that. We have to stay here.”

Additionally, a retirement fund for firefighters went up about $24,000.

In the highway department, $5,000 was added to equipment repair and road repairs for town roads went up by $15,000. Highway Superintendent Denny Dains said the increase is based on the increase in the oil index.