Numerous references to recent or upcoming events in the Town of Tonawanda helped paint a generally rosy picture Friday of the state of the town.
Economic development was the source of much of that good news from Town Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana, who presented his annual address during a luncheon at an Amherst banquet hall.
Caruana mentioned plans by FedEx Trade Networks Transport and Brokerage, which recently became publicly traded, to consolidate local operations – and create more jobs – at the Riverview Solar Technology Park, as well as the upcoming request for bids on a $3 million project to open up access to 90 acres available for development in the town-owned North Youngmann Commerce Center.
Thanks to grants totaling $2.5 million for work at that location, “We can increase our supply of shovel-ready development sites without significant cost to taxpayers,” Caruana said. “Infrastructure construction should be complete by this fall.”
The supervisor also referred to restaurants and small businesses that have either recently opened or are about to open.
“One of the hallmarks of our community is a vision to understand where we are, where we want to be, and the resolve to translate that vision into reality,” Caruana said. “Where there’s challenge, there’s also opportunity, founded on the strength of our residents, our businesses and our leaders in government and in education.”
The town’s fiscal health is good, Caruana said, as a result of consolidations, prudent management of resources and conservative budgeting, among other things.
“The actual property tax levy for 2013 reflects a decrease of 8.1 percent from the 2012 tax levy, and helped to provide for the first residential tax decrease in 13 years,” he said. “It is my intention and that of the entire Town Board to continue with these positive developments for as long as we can.”
As he’s done in recent years, the supervisor spoke of challenges posed by the town’s aging infrastructure – particularly its sewer lines and roads, on which millions of dollars will continue to be spent.
“Two additional challenges facing the town in 2013 and beyond are the proposed increase in the minimum wage, and health insurance premium increases – including the impact of the Affordable Care Act,” he said.
“If the proposed minimum wage increases ... the increased wages for our Youth, Parks and Recreation Department alone ... would be over $350,000,” he said, likening the increase to an unfunded mandate.
“We still have many challenges facing us, some old and some new,” Caruana said. “The state and federal unfunded and underfunded mandates are a tremendous burden.
“The town is continuing to look at ways to restructure, to reorganize departments to become even more efficient,” he said. “We are continuing to seek additional federal and state assistance to help pay for costly mandates and improvements to our aging buildings and infrastructure, and we continue our inter-municipal cooperation to reduce the costs of providing services to our residents.”