The Homer Town Board unanimously approved a $2.2 million 2021 budget Wednesday evening, which would increase spending by 10.7%.
“Fred Forbes is absolutely amazing with the budget,” board member Larry Jones said after the meeting. “He’s as tight as a bark on a tree and he does a fabulous job.”
No residents spoke at the public hearing on the budget before the regular meeting.
Some of that increase in spending can be attributed to an increase in salaries.
“I adjusted them to the cost of living,” Forbes said.
That, combined with increased spending for fire protection, would increase the property tax levy 14.2%.
There was also a nearly 10% increase in retirement costs, to $35,000 in 2021 from $32,000 in 2020.
The other large increase comes from fire protection costs — to $170,186 from $130,497 — which the town pays to the village. That cost increased the property tax rate for fire protection 29% to 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value from 62 cents per $1,000.
Forbes said he did decrease workers compensation to $17,814 after originally proposing $21,000, after receiving the final numbers from the company the town contracts with.
“I lowered sales tax expectations by that amount to keep everything balanced,” he said.
Forbes had also noted he was putting $150,000, from reserve funds, toward bridges, in the hopes of repairing the Wall Street bridge, which was red-flagged by the state for structural issues and closed in 2018.
He said the bridge committee for the town came up with three options:
- Refurbish the bridge.
- Replace it with a new bridge.
- Possibly take the bridge scheduled to be put in at East River Crossing Road in 2023 and move it there instead.
However, Forbes said the consensus of the committee was to apply for Bridge New York funds, when they become available again, for a new bridge. The town would need to cover only 5% of the cost
The town wanted to turn the Wall Street bridge into a two-lane bridge, but the $860,000 project was not selected to receive state funding in 2018.
“So a $1 million bridge would only be $50,000,” he said. “That’s the No. 1 goal to do that. If that doesn’t happen, then we will go to plan B or C, depending on the timeliness and how everything fits together.”