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NIAGARA FALLS – The Niagara Falls Water Board is considering a smaller increase in water and sewer rates for next year than was initially on the table.

Changes to the proposed 2014 budget have reduced the rate spike to 2.6 percent from the initial 3.5 percent increase proposed last month.

Mary Jean Buddenhagen, financial services director, said about $103,000 has been cut since the board received the initial budget proposal on Oct. 17.

The spending cuts came mostly from utility costs, based on updated figures on year-to-date spending, Buddenhagen said. Some was also trimmed from an overtime line, as well as some funding allocated to make sure the board meets bonding requirements to budget 115 percent of estimated aggregate debt service, she said.

A public hearing on the proposed 2014 budget will be held at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the board’s water treatment plant, 5815 Buffalo Ave.

On Thursday night, the board heard from Thomas P. Malecki, of the accounting firm of Drescher & Malecki of Buffalo, who provided a review of the board’s financial status heading into the next budget year.

Malecki said the board has done well controlling costs in recent years, noting current spending levels are at or below what they were in 2009.

Personnel expenses are actually lower now than they were four years ago, but health care and retirement costs are increasing at about $1.2 million per year, he said.

One of the positive notes from this year, in terms of the board’s finances, was the Greenpac plant going online, which brought additional revenue, Malecki said.

Malecki recommended the board enact a 4 percent rate increase for next year in order to meet its “bond covenants,” or required spending levels in order to keep borrowing agreements in good standing.

Buddenhagen said the figures Malecki’s report was based on had been updated, and the board believes it will be able to meet the requirements without a 4 percent rate increase.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com