By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — RIDGEWAY — The public hearing on the 2013 Ridgeway Town Budget drew only a small crowd, but the discussions about the $2.3 million spending plan were substantive.
The hearing focused largely on resident’s recommendations for reducing healthcare costs and increasing property values in the town — the two items that Ridgeway Town Supervisor Brian Napoli said caused increases in property taxes for both in-village and out-of-village properties.
Property values declined by approximately $295,000 in the town this year, which Napoli said where due to the “nature of the economy and the market.” Residents Maureen Blackburn and Gary Williams both said they’d like to see a more proactive effort to combat declining housing conditions.
Williams suggested that the town would benefit from having a full-time codes enforcement officer. Currently, Codes Enforcement Officer Dan Wolfe is split between Ridgeway, Shelby, Yates and Lyndonville — Napoli said Wolfe works about 1.5 days per week for the town. A backup codes workers was also brought on last year.
Blackburn said that residents play a bigger role in the problem of declining housing assessments.
“It behooves you to work more closely with your codes and zoning personnel ... so people with an interest in property and new builds can do it in Ridgeway,” said Blackburn, who praised Wolfe as being “extremely helpful” and “conscientious” in working with her property. “The problem is inconsistent interpretation of the rules. There’s people who don’t want to expand the tax base.”
Town board members said another sign of their attempts to grow the tax base was their contributions to the County EDA. The contribution, which totaled $2,500 for 2013, is used towards marketing of the town as an attractive place to locate a business.
“We’ve been told that they’ve heard that Ridgeway is one of the most business-friendly municipalities,” said Napoli, who noted the rezoning of land next to the railroad for industrial use.
But bringing in business is a competitive arena, Councilman Jeffrey Toussaint said.
“There’s a lot of people putting out feelers (for municipalities across the region),” Toussaint said. “We’re doing whatever we can to cooperate with the EDA, to be attractive for business and facilitate business.”
When it comes to healthcare, Napoli said the town had no control over the rising costs beyond increasing the amount that employees pay into their coverage. He said the town’s small costumer base for an insurer didn’t help — the town is pursuing what will be the Ridgeway’s third different healthcare plan in three years due to prior plans expiring.
Williams questioned why, if the town’s small number of employees played a role in the health insurance offerings, was having all of the county’s municipalities join together to negotiate a health insurance plan not being pursued.
“Why can’t the towns go together,” Williams asked.
“It’s an excellent idea,” Napoli said. “We’ve looked into it and it appears it would require a change in state law ... that conversation has been ongoing for the last three to four years (but it hasn’t gotten through the legislature).”
Napoli said the town’s employee retirement system continues to increase, with the 2013 cost of $101,000 being more than four times the amount paid in 2009.
Ridgeway’s town-wide property tax rate, the rate paid for properties in the section of the Village of Medina within the Town of Ridgeway will be $3.10 for every $1,000 in assessed property value. That has increased $0.09 from last year’s tax rate, which was $3.01. The property tax rate to be paid for properties outside of the village also is rising — from $4.81 in the current year to $4.89, an $0.08 increase.
A few miles away, the Shelby Town Board unanimously agreed to adopt the town’s 2013 budget. The town held a public hearing on the budget last Thursday. The town had also already held a public hearing on a tax cap override last month, which Supervisor Skip Draper said he’d do every year.
“It’s a poorly written law,” Draper said.
Shelby’s $2.5 million budget does not increase tax rates for either in-village — which will be $3.34 in 2013 — or out-of-village properties — which will be $5.97 next year — as part of a $1.1 million tax levy. The tax rate for the fire district went up $0.02 to $1.51.
An article in the Nov. 12 Journal-Register incorrectly stated the current tax rate for properties located outside of the village in the Town of Ridgeway. Those numbers have been corrected above.An article in the Nov. 12 Journal-Register incorrectly stated the current tax rate for properties located outside of the village in the Town of Ridgeway. Those numbers have been corrected above.