Newfane Town Offices

Newfane Town Offices.

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NEWFANE — Due to a calculating error, the municipal tax rate on bills already in property owners' hands was wrong. 

Town staff accidentally deducted budgeted revenue for fiscal year 2023 twice and only realized the mistake after tax bills were sent out. 

"The impact of the error is that the town would collect $300,197 less than it needs to cover its expenses," states a news release issued Thursday. "This shortfall represents a little more than 15 percent of our annual expenses."

The issue came up at the Select Board meeting on Monday. Board Vice Chairwoman Ann Golob said procedures were agreed upon to ensure that new checks are in place so the error isn't repeated in the future.

Now, the Select Board is considering whether to issue new, corrected tax bills or use surplus funds to cover the shortfall. New tax bills would result in an additional $120 in annual taxes for every $100,000 of home value and involve mailing costs on the town's end. 

This year, a news release states, the town has a larger than usual surplus of about $500,000 due to a recent reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for expenses associated with Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. 

"Because the reimbursement was so long overdue, all loans that Newfane had taken out for the repairs have been repaid in full," states the news release. "The FEMA funds therefore represent a surplus to the town’s budget which can be spent in any way the town chooses." 

Board member Mike Fitzpatrick suggested the possibility that the town could come in under budget this fiscal year. At the meeting, he spoke in favor of using the surplus if needed but other board members voted against it, favoring more discussion at the next meeting.

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Surplus funds could possibly supplement federal American Rescue Plan Act money to address big infrastructure needs, Board Vice Chair Golob said. 

"I think there is a real value in maintaining these pools of money," she said, commending Treasurer Melissa Brown for all her effort in getting the FEMA reimbursement. "I'm sorry the error happened. Things happen."

Golob offered to assist in administrative work associated with getting revised tax bills out. 

"These moneys belong to the taxpayers and it's up to them what they want to see happen with it," said Doris Knechtel, town lister. "I suspect we're going to have more surplus funds." 

At its Aug. 15 meeting, the board will discuss the two options for dealing with the issue. If it wants to use the surplus, a town-wide vote could happen at 6 p.m. on Sept. 20 at the NewBrook Fire Station, when the community will decide if retail cannabis should be allowed in Newfane.

The board envisions an article might ask voters if a portion of the town's surplus funds should be moved into a "rainy day fund" that would allow the treasurer to correct the shortfall. 

The Aug. 15 meeting will be held at the town offices and via Zoom. Residents also are invited to share feedback by emailing tnewfane@newfanevt.com.


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