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TOWN OF NIAGARA – Supervisor Steve Richards said the Town Board needs to “right size” the tentative 2013 budget he submitted this week.
The $7.2 million package of budget requests from every department is about 28 percent higher than what is being spent this year.
If approved as is, the budget would force a property tax increase of more than 3 percent for both residential and commercial properties. The new homestead rate for 2013 would be $5.15 per $1,000 of assessed valuation and the non-homestead would be $9.04, which the supervisor said would be “unacceptable to me.”
He added that “these figures do not include any increase in wages or benefits to the town union contract that expires at the end of the year.”
“I have warned, in every budget message since 2010, that the town needs to streamline its operations to reflect the reduction in population and revenues,” he said.
The board has to work hard to cut costs and consolidate services where it can, he said.
The tax increase in the tentative budget exceeds the state cap, which is 2 percent or the rate of inflation. If the board decides to exceed the cap, it needs to approve the override separately before voting on the budget itself, according to state law. A public hearing and vote on the tax-cap proposal has been set for 7 p.m. Oct. 16.
“This year, the Town Board will have to make a serious attempt to rein in [costs] or face a major tax hike over the next three years where I can see dollars rather than pennies being added to the tax rate,” Richards stressed in his budget statement. “And keep in mind this year the (unsettled) union contract and sewer contract with … Niagara Falls.”
He said the general fund is covered by sales tax revenues and $700,000 of the $1 million the town receives from the New York State Power Authority. In the tentative budget, department head requests amount to about $3.4 million, or $329,866 more than this year. In addition, special district spending has gone up $194,100.
Without the sales tax and Power Authority money, the general fund would cost taxpayers another $5 per $1,000, he said. Some of the improvements included in the budget are a major road repaving project and the addition of another full-time police officer along with the purchase of four new police cars.
He said 2013 is the first year of the five-year plan to repave town roads. Included in the plan are Grauer Road, Miller Road, Effie Drive, Robert Drive, Lozina Drive, Disney Drive, Woodland Avenue, East Britton Drive, St. Joseph Road, Sunnydale Drive, Greenview Road, Joanne Circle North and Joanne Circle, provided the board approves the bonding.
Richards said he and Highway Superintendent Robert Herman were able to pave and repair a number of other roads in 2012 by streamlining Highway Department operations.
Another police officer is needed to ease the burden on the current force and lessen the reliance on part-time officers, he said. The patrol cars, at a price of about $150,000, would be funded through bonding at annual payments of $30,000, Richards noted.
Richards said Deputy Supervisor Marc Carpenter would set the dates for the budget work sessions, and the budget public hearing and vote would be held on Oct. 30.