Organizations that sponsor public events that end up costing more than $1,000 in police traffic control should fully reimburse Amherst for those expenses, according to a proposal that Supervisor Barry Weinstein and several Town Board members will put before the board today.
That would affect more than a dozen races and events, ranging from the Race to Cure Childhood Cancer 5K, which police say costs about $2,520 in wages and overtime, to the Ride for Roswell, which police say costs the town about $9,732. It would also affect several 5K races organized by local Catholic churches and numerous other walks and races organized to benefit everything from programs for those with disabilities to disease research. The costs currently are borne by town taxpayers.
Some race organizers say the proposal would reduce the money they raise for charity or jeopardize their events.
“That would be crazy,” said Lee Federiconi, co-owner of Lebro’s Restaurant and organizer of Lebro’s 5K Fall Classic. “I wouldn’t do the race. I wouldn’t put it on.”
The Lebro’s 5K raises about $10,000 for pediatric cancer research, he said. If he continued to do the event, he’d have less money to give to charity, because the police would require a reimbursement of $2,380. Traffic control for events such as his should be considered part of the Police Department’s routine responsibilities, he said.
“To live in the Town of Amherst, we pay so much money in taxes,” he said. “And now they’re going to say, ‘Shame on you. You can’t do this event anymore because it costs us too much money.’ That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
The town has always been a good host for the Ride for Roswell, which draws more than 10,000 riders and volunteers, according to Leslie Garrity, a spokeswoman for the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. She said the event could absorb the cost of town reimbursement – $9,732 – but the money would be taken out of funds that would otherwise be raised for cancer research and patient care.
“We will do whatever we can do to keep people safe,” she said.
The town is, for the first time in years, looking at cutbacks to some services to keep taxes down at a time of growing pension costs and other budget increases over which the town has no control. Weinstein said targeted cuts to both the Police Department and the Youth and Recreation Department are necessary.
The proposal to require reimbursement for certain road races and events is expected to save the town $54,165, the supervisor said. Weinstein’s resolution is co-sponsored by Council Members Richard “Jay” Anderson, Steven Sanders and Guy Marlette.
Council Members Mark Manna and Barbara Nuchereno oppose the resolution and have submitted budget amendments to eliminate the proposed cut.
The proposal would not require reimbursement for any events sponsored by, or for the benefit of, the Village of Williamsville, school and fire districts in the Town of Amherst, the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village (formerly known as the Amherst Museum), and the Memorial Day Parade.
The proposal also reiterates current policy that all road races and events requiring police presence be properly registered with the Town Clerk’s Office and receive permission to proceed. Currently, not all events register with the town.
Amherst’s preliminary $116.5 million budget for 2013 increases spending by 1.2 percent, or about $1.4 million. However, higher revenue projections, some spending cuts and an increased use of town reserves would keep the property tax levy flat compared with this year.
In related news:
• Weinstein has recommended a variety of other budget amendments to restore what the police chief calls the minimum acceptable level of money for the purchase of police vehicles. Weinstein had cut the police vehicle budget from $359,000 to $202,000.
The budget transfers he’s recommending would increase the police vehicle budget to $259,000, Weinstein said. Other amendments, which would be budget-neutral because of offsetting reductions, would add money to pay for an entry-level laborer in the Highway Department, two promotions in the Planning Department and a part-time clerical position in the Assessor’s Office.
• Manna has introduced 17 budget amendments that, among other things, restore most cuts to the Police Department and Youth and Recreation Department, reduce the budgets for Town Board members and the Supervisor’s Office, and eliminate health insurance for board members.
He said these costs would be offset by higher projected revenues to sales and mortgage taxes and the greater use of town reserves and other savings.
• Nuchereno has sponsored three resolutions to restore money for police vehicle purchases, police traffic control of road races and events, and money for nonprofit groups that provide services for the town’s Youth and Recreation Department.
The Town Board’s final budget meeting will be at 7 p.m. today in the Amherst Municipal Building, 5583 Main St., Williamsville. The meeting will be preceded by a work session at 3.