Town of Lyme passes 2022 budget with tax hike

Town of Lyme offices on Route 12E in April. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

CHAUMONT — Town of Lyme property owners will see their town tax bills jump up next year, from about $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $1.23 per $1,000 of assessed value.

That’s an increase of nearly 40% in one year. A property owner with a $100,000 property will pay $123 in town property tax in 2022, and the town anticipates it will bring in $486,974 from that source.

The town board had to vote to override the tax cap, which is set by the state annually to limit how much any taxing municipality in New York can raise its tax rate.

Overall, the town budget calls for $3 million in spending in 2022.

Lyme Town Supervisor Scott G. Aubertine on Monday said the reason for the tax increase is largely due to two major cost increases. Primarily, the town has to devote $250,000 to the newly consolidated Cape Vincent Ambulance Squad.

In late September, the Three Mile Bay Fire Company’s ambulance service ended, and CVAS expanded its service area to cover what the fire company had previously covered. Officials said the combined emergency response district would be more financially stable with more paid calls per year and would be able to pay a full-time EMT and driver to make up for a loss in volunteers.

Now, both towns of Cape Vincent and Lyme have pledged to provide $250,000 annually to support the ambulance service. That’s a 614% increase from the $35,000 that the town of Lyme paid for the Three Mile Bay service in 2020 and 2021.

Mr. Aubertine said while the new system isn’t a savings for the town, it’s important that Lyme keeps a local ambulance service.

“Without doing this, we would have to rely on outside sources, whether it be Guilfoyle or TIERS or something like that,” he said. “We try to keep it in house as much as we can.”

The second major reason behind the tax hike this coming year is a $22,700 increase in county chargebacks to the town.

Chargebacks for towns are essentially bills for services in the county for which the town government is responsible. In Jefferson County, towns typically make chargeback payments for tax mapping services, workers compensation claims, dog control and other “direct town services.”

In 2021, the town paid about $55,000 in chargebacks, but 2022’s total calls for more than $77,000. The increase is almost entirely caused by a jump in workers compensation claims made by town employees this year, Mr. Aubertine said.

The town’s employees are all getting raises this year, to varying degrees based on position.

The town is also devoting some of the extra tax revenue next year to the town Highway Department. Previously, the town hadn’t dedicated any tax revenue to the highway fund, but for 2022 Lyme expects to devote about $5,000 from property taxes, about 0.01 cent per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Mr. Aubertine said that money will be used to facilitate a pay hike for the town’s highway workers, with a $1 per hour increase for first-year staff and proportional raises across the board. The department also plans to replace some equipment this year, and the entire town highway fund calls for $842,500 in spending next year.

Mr. Aubertine said the town budgeted about $80,000 for work at the new park being developing in Chaumont, although town officials are unsure what developments will take place there.

“We have many people in the community who feel we should form a committee to decide what goes next, so that is probably what the board is going to do,” he said.

There’s also some money available for the potential construction of a new highway garage and town offices, which Mr. Aubertine said are in desperate need of renewal.

“We’re hoping we can get the public to back us for that,” he said.

He added that the board is proud of the budget it has produced for this coming year.

“Because of the two main increases, we thought that we kept it down to a pretty good level, considering everything,” he said.

The board unanimously approved the budget during its November meeting.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

I write about north country politics, Jefferson County and the northern shoreline towns of Lyme, Cape Vincent, Clayton and Alexandria Bay

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