The 2013 West Seneca town budget, adopted Tuesday by a 2-1 vote during a special meeting of the Town Board, calls for an increase in property taxes.
But after a nearly two-hour public session in the West Seneca Senior Center that saw town leaders and financial advisers outlining the details of the budgetary process and candidly answering questions of the dozen or so citizens there, it seemed the public was comfortable with the spending plan.
The $34 million spending plan calls for a 2.97 percent increase in the town’s tax rate that will see it rise by 50 cents to $17.44 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
“I think this is a very good budget,” said Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan, explaining that it preserves the services town residents “expect and deserve” while controlling costs as well as possible. “We really did our homework here, and we really made some sacrifices.”
In all, more than $107,000 was cut from Meegan’s tentative budget to reduce the tax rate from 3.69 percent to under 3 percent. More than 200 separate lines were reduced from the tentative budget to the final budget, with cuts ranging from $8 in the Town Clerk’s Office budget to $12,500 in the highway budget for estimated snow-removal costs. Many of the reductions were in the $50 to $200 range.
Residents, who had been forewarned that Meegan’s tentative budget projected a tax increase, arrived armed to question the Town Board and to seek out cuts in costs:
• Rudy Russo grilled board members about employee overtime and asked the board for mercy on taxes, given the expected hikes at every other level of government.
• David Kims told the board cost-cutting was imperative: “A buck here and a buck there – it adds up to real money,” he said.
Councilman John M. Rusinski was the sole vote against the budget, saying he refused to vote for any tax increase, given the current economic climate.
“I think that hard decisions need to be made,” Rusinski said. “I don’t think there [are] in this budget, so my vote on this budget will be ‘no.’ ”
When asked for specifics by Meegan and Councilman Eugene P. Hart about what more he would cut, however, Rusinski came up with no specifics. Instead, he called for more analysis and budgetary work sessions next year.
It was a move that didn’t sit well with Hart, who said he went over the budget line by line over the last several weeks, cutting what could be cut.
As a way to appeal to Rusinski, he offered to add additional fund balance money as a way to help further decrease the tax rate.”
Hart explained that the board’s hands were largely tied by employee contracts, including salaries and benefits, as well as the retabulated rising costs for the state pension system.