The Lancaster Town Board on Monday approved a $30.7 million town budget for 2013 that raises spending slightly while lowering property taxes for most residents.
The four Democrats in the Town Board majority made a handful of minor changes to Republican Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli’s budget proposal, boosting the amount to be raised in taxes by $19,327. These alterations included the addition of a full-time position in the Town Clerk’s Office, instead of the part-time worker sought by the supervisor.
The Democrats said Town Clerk Johanna M. Coleman made a compelling case for the full-time worker. “I am very frugal. Some people call me cheap,” Coleman said during the meeting. “I look at every dollar that is spent as though it was mine.”
However, Fudoli and several residents who spoke prior to the budget’s adoption questioned whether adding a full-time salary, with the accompanying benefits, was prudent. “It certainly does not benefit the best interests of the taxpayers,” said resident Lee Chowaniec, who called it “fiscally irresponsible.”
The debate over the clerk-typist’s job became testy at times, particularly between Fudoli and Councilman Mark S. Aquino and between Aquino and resident Mike Fronczak, before the board voted 4-1 to pass the budget, with the supervisor casting the no vote.
The 2013 budget lowers the property tax levy – the amount the town intends to collect in property taxes – by 0.9 percent from the previous year, the first such decrease since 2000.
The budget includes no layoffs but eliminates a vacant officer’s position in the Police Department and a vacant laborer’s position in the Buildings Department.
Spending rises by 1.5 percent, mainly because of increased costs for debt service and employee pensions, though department heads and elected town officials won’t see raises in 2013.
The budget also estimates the town will take in 8.4 percent more in sales tax revenue than the sales tax estimate in the 2012 budget.
The four Town Board Democrats shifted money around in the budgets of some departments to restore money for travel to the state Association of Towns annual conference and $2,000 cut from the code enforcement officer’s salary. They also restored $2,000 in funding for the historic Hull Family House and Homestead.
Fudoli said Monday night that he wanted to replace a retiring full-time clerk-typist with a part-time worker because his research found the Town Clerk’s Office was overstaffed relative to the offices in other towns. “I do not willy-nilly make cuts,” he said.
The Town Board Democrats, however, said they believe Coleman runs her office efficiently and she was able to justify the added full-time position to them.
Fudoli then questioned why Aquino didn’t ask him to explain his rationale for proposing the part-time position, and Aquino said he didn’t need to talk to Fudoli because he knew how the supervisor felt. “I’m getting a little sick of you acting like you’re the only guy that’s looking out for the taxpayers,” Aquino said, prompting more back-and-forth with Fudoli.
The budget amendments approved by the Town Board added $2 above and beyond the supervisor’s tentative budget to the tax bill of a home in the town assessed at $200,000.
The owners of a $200,000 home in the town outside the villages of Lancaster and Depew would see their general and special-district taxes fall $31.49, instead of $33.49, to $1,734.66, a drop of 1.8 percent from this year.
The owners of a $200,000 home in the Village of Lancaster would see their taxes fall $25.49, instead of $27.49, to $991.66, a drop of 2.5 percent from this year.
And owners of a $200,000 home in the Village of Depew would see their taxes rise by $14, instead of $12, to $482, an increase of 3 percent, because Depew taxpayers don’t fully benefit from the increase in sales tax revenue received by the town.