Town of Oneonta property tax owners would see a small increase in their property tax rate, but a significant decrease in the cost of fire protection under a tentative 2020 town budget.

A decrease of about $86,000 in the Oneonta Fire Protection District contract with the city of Oneonta and an increase of 13 cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value were proposed at the town of Oneonta's tentative budget meeting Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 3966 State Route 23 in West Oneonta. 

The net charge to the town fire district is $1,091,795, according to a financial document compiled by Oneonta City Director of Finance Virginia Lee and shared with The Daily Star via email. The cost is cut by $24,500 through SUNY Impact Aid, for a total contract cost of $1,067,295.

"I think it's a good contract and a service that the people in the town are very pleased to get," Town Supervisor Bob Wood said.

Wood said at a time when emergency medical services are getting more and more difficult to provide throughout the county, town residents have the benefit of a full-time, paid department.

The Oneonta Fire Protection District was established in November 2018 after the dissolution of the Town of Oneonta Fire District. The district covers the same geographical area as the prior Town of Oneonta Fire District, which was dissolved Nov. 2 after a 3-2 vote by its commissioners.

The proposed 13 cent tax increase is largely to finance the cost of the new highway garage, Wood said. The garage needs to be replaced because it is in poor condition and too small to house all of the trucks, Wood said to The Daily Star in July. He also said there have been safety hazards for workers.

The town had been looking at building a new garage for about five years and the estimate for building the new garage is about $2 million to $2.5 million, Wood said. He said the town hopes to have the project's construction completed by the end of2020.

Wood said the town is still waiting on contractor bids to come in, which are due by Thursday, Oct. 17. A pre-bid conference was well attended by contractors, he said.

In 2019, the town's tax rate was $2.53 per thousand and the proposed tax rate for 2020 is $2.66, Wood said. He explained that for a $100,000 house, a 13 cent tax increase would be a $13 increase on the town portion of the tax bill.

Last year's tax levy overrode the 2% tax cap, also due to the cost of the new highway garage, Wood said in November 2018. This year's $1,261,859 tax levy, up $60,000 from last year, is under the tax cap, he said to The Daily Star on Friday. The total appropriations for the highway garage and the General Fund are $2,521,322. 

There will be a public hearing on the budget Monday, Nov. 4, and Wood said he hopes the budget will be approved at the Town Board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 13. 

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at skarikehalli@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

* Updated at 4:10 p.m. Monday, Oct. 7 for clarity.

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