The Clarence Town Board on Wednesday approved a 2013 budget that increased the amount to be raised by 1 percent, to $10.92 million.
The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation is $1.04, down slightly from $1.05 a year ago. Appropriations in the spending plan are $21.3 million, estimated revenues are $8.55 million, and the appropriated fund balance is $1.8 million.
Only one resident, Mike Patterson, spoke during the public hearing on the budget.
Patterson said he opposed providing a pay increase to town employees and recommended the employees’ pay be frozen until the county’s jobless rate fell to 5 percent. Patterson also raised concerns about employee retirement costs. Some board members said they shared his concerns but said the town has to follow state directives on retiree pensions and health benefits.
Town Supervisor David C. Hartzell Jr. said the $1.04 tax rate in the 2013 budget was a credit to current and former town officials who have kept costs in check over the years. “We’re proud to put our brick in the wall,” he said.
Before voting on the budget, the board held public hearings on fire protection contracts with four volunteer fire companies that serve the town. All were approved.
Councilman Peter DiCostanzo voted against three of the contracts. The accountant picked apart the numbers and reiterated his concerns about how much was being added to the companies’ reserve funds. “We just keep increasing and increasing these,” he said.
Councilman Robert Geiger said he felt the four fire companies’ contract increases were fair and relatively small after receiving no increase for each of the previous three years. “That certainly isn’t unreasonable,” he said.
Councilman Bernard Kolber also said he felt the fire companies had put together plans that were “very, very reasonable.”
Former Councilman Joseph Weiss added his voice to the debate, through a sharply critical letter. Copies of it were placed in the Town Hall auditorium for audience members at Wednesday’s meeting.
Weiss called Clarence firefighters “the only one viable political party in Clarence,” claiming they have exerted heavy influence on local elections and “bullied” town officials into funding “oversized campuses within a stone’s throw of each other.”