SALAMANCA – The City of Salamanca has adopted a spending plan for the year beginning April 1, but not everyone in the courtroom for a public hearing was happy with that plan as passed Wednesday night.
The $7 million budget calls for raising $1,028,693 in taxes on residents, a 2 percent increase over the current budget. While the increase seems nominal, the City of Salamanca has a unique situation when it comes to taxation: Because of treaties and compacts with New York State, members of the Seneca Nation of Indians do not have to pay taxes on properties owned in the city. Over time, the amount of properties owned by Seneca members has grown to close to 70 percent in the city.
Some residents, especially those living on fixed incomes, have had about all they can take in the increased taxes that fall on the same 30 percent of residents who have to shoulder the rest of the taxation burden. One resident, Louise Hyson, spoke against the levy increase.
“Why do we need to raise taxes this 2 percent?” Hyson asked Mayor Carmen Vecchiarella. “You [city officials] have been in papers, saying you are giving $45,000 to area organizations. If we have these funds, why do we need to give them anything?”
The members of the City Council recently appropriated about $75,000 as donations for various nonprofit organizations that do work in the city.
Hyson’s concern was not quelled as Vecchiarella said the 2 percent increase will allow for a rebate for taxpayers after casino revenues come to the city.
“You have to look at the big picture of the tax immune properties,” Vecchiarella said. “We will get 2 percent on each of those properties that are tax-exempt through the casino revenue. They [tax-exempt residents] are not paying the taxes in person, but someone is paying it.”
Hyson, not satisfied with the need to wait a year to be reimbursed from the casino revenue, said she and some of her friends aren’t concerned with the time frame.
“We don’t care if it is going to be in a rebate next year. Some of us will not see next year,” she said.