SALAMANCA – Salamanca residents will see a small increase in their tax bills after the members of the City Council on Wednesday night approved a new $6.58 million budget in a 4-to-1 vote. Ward 5 Councilman Luke Stewart cast the only no vote.
The increase of one-and-a-half percent in the amount to be raised still keeps the tax levy under the $1 million point. The budget anticipates revenues of $2.85 million, special state aid of around $2.5 million, the use of $226,811 from an appropriated fund balance and $994,806 from the tax levy.
The operating budget for the city is up $191,645 over the 2012-13 budget.
In voting against the budget, Stewart said, “I don’t want to see taxes go up at all on my constituents. I appreciate the hard work of the department heads and the members of the Council, but I think there was more to be cut in each budget. I had to vote my heart.”
Fewer than 20 people attended a public hearing on the budget before the Council voted and only a couple of questions were raised.
One dealt with the increase in taxes, especially on the elderly, when properties that are deeded to enrolled members of the Seneca Nation do not pay any property taxes. According to Mayor Carmen Vecchiarella, only about 30 percent of the residents of the city actually pay property taxes. The other 70 percent are not on the rolls because of legal exemptions for members of native tribes.
Another concern was the proposition of what was originally a 2 percent increase in the tax levy and how that would be perceived by officials at the state level when members of the Council ask for additional funding. The 2 percent was cut to the 1.5 percent with additional appropriated funds covering the difference to help ease the burden on taxpayers.
The city, home to a Seneca Nation-owned casino, has found itself in need of additional funding from the state as it awaits payment from casino revenues. The city has found itself caught in the middle of a dispute between the nation and the state over whether the state has infringed on nation territory with its racetrack casinos. As a result, it has needed to borrow from the state in the waning months of the budget cycle.
Vecchiarella said it remains a concern on the minds of all of the City Council.
The Council’s next regular meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Ronald Yehl Municipal Building.