Busti Town Board Needs To Approve Fund Balance Policy; Deliver Tax Relief

I believe the facts will demonstrate that town of Busti property taxpayers have been over taxed for many years, including the payment of taxes on taxes already paid.

Over the past seven years, Busti property owners faced an average town tax increase of 5.5% per year (See submitted chart). And if one adds the indirect costs from the recently enacted Library 259, that moved town library costs onto their Southwestern Central Schol District tax bill, the average increase jumped to almost 7% per year or triple the “tax cap”.

From 2013-19, one budget line, the General Fund Town Wide (GFTW), produced one-half of the entire town’s yearly tax levy. On the GFTW budget line alone, the town leaders garnered an average of 37% (range 25-53%) in Unassigned, Unappropriated Fund Balance (UFB) relative to Appropriations. In 2019, UFB for GFTW was 42% and totaled over $500,000 on Appropriations of nearly $1.2 million. UFBs are taxpayer monies previously collected and theoretically withheld for “rainy day” funds.

Unfortunately, at this time the Town has no policy in place for defining “reasonable” Fund Balances (UFB). Documents from the NYS Comptroller’s Office call for towns to have a Fund Balance policy in place and suggest maintaining 10% in UFB for GFTW; however, the Town of Busti has no policy in place. Rather, the Town maintained an average of 37% in UFB in GFTW over the past 7 years, leading to over $500,000 or 42% in UFB GTWF alone by year end 2018. In stark contrast, the Village of Lakewood holds only 5% or $189,000 in UFB for their entire 2019-20 budget of $3.8 million in appropriations. Chautauqua County’s policy sets UFB at 5-15% for their entire budget.

Without any Fund Balance policy in place and the Town of Busti leader/representatives willingness to override the tax cap most years, the Town essentially maintained large UFB in GFTW and allowed higher property taxes to fall on all Town property owners. Busti taxpayers have been overtaxed and paid more in taxes on top of taxes already paid in years past. It’s high time the Busti Town Board set a reasonable fund balance policy and actually deliver real tax reductions for all Busti property owners.

Dr. Rudy Mueller is a Lakewood resident and a member of the Busti Town Board.

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