The Amherst Town Board on Monday adopted a $117.8 million budget package, which increases spending about 1 percent for next year.
The board made some last-minute budget amendments Monday, but the changes are not expected to impact the end result: town taxes are projected to go down slightly for most Amherst residents.
“This is the fourth year in a row when we’ve had a tax reduction,” said Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein.
The town tax levy – the amount to be raised by taxes – would decrease $140,000, or less than a half percent, to $71.65 million, under the adopted budget.
That – combined with an increase in the town’s tax base – would lower the town tax bill about 2 percent next year, or roughly $40 for most residents, Weinstein said.
Weinstein, a Republican running for re-election in November, touted his record for cutting costs and taxes over the past four years, but his opponent was not to be outdone at Monday’s meeting.
Council Member Mark A. Manna, a Democrat running against Weinstein, submitted two resolutions proposing to cut health insurance for council members, reduce the council’s office staff worker position to part-time and eliminate stipends given to the highway superintendent.
Manna estimated the town would save about $116,000, but his motion died for a lack of a second.
“We could have saved more money,” Manna said.
Weinstein pointed out the town has to offer health care for the council members under the Affordable Care Act and that Amherst is actually saving money by paying the highway superintendent $23,000 in stipends for extra duties as opposed to hiring someone else for those jobs.
The increase in spending of more than $1.2 million next year is a reflection of state pension costs; budgeted raises associated with three settled labor union contracts; money set aside for a pending decision on police arbitration; and a net increase of four municipal jobs.
Republican Council Members Guy R. Marlette, Steven D. Sanders and Richard “Jay” Anderson all praised the budget, and in the end, it passed 6-0.
No one from the public commented on the budget during Monday’s public hearing.
As part of next year’s budget, the board also approved $16.4 million in capital improvements.
That money – most of which will be borrowed – includes $6.9 million for upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant on Tonawanda Creek Road; more than $1 million for an addition to the Town Court building on John James Audubon Parkway; and $960,000 for park and recreation improvements.
In other business, the board agreed to settle an assessment challenge from Sears, located at 1261 Niagara Falls Blvd. The board voted 5-1 to lower the assessment from $8.3 million to $6.7 million for the next three years. Manna was the lone no vote.