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While spending is up nearly $3.7 million in the Town of Tonawanda’s tentative 2014 budget, a property tax levy decrease marks the third year in a row the town’s budget has come in under the state property tax cap.

Budget appropriations total $98.8 million in the proposal; the current budget totals $95.1 million.

The roughly $43.7 million tax levy reflects a decrease of $31,868, or 0.1 percent, Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana announced in his 2014 tentative-budget message during this week’s Town Board meeting. “This is substantially less than the minimum property tax cap of 1.66 percent,” he said.

Under a state law enacted in 2011, tax levy increases can’t exceed 2 percent or the rate of inflation – whichever is lower.

For the average homeowner, it would translate into a decrease of $3.26 on their town tax bill.

Under the tentative budget, the 2014 town tax – for all funds and special districts – for a home assessed at $50,000 would be $1,188.07, compared with the current $1,191.33. Because of the town’s equalization rate of 47 percent, this home generally has a market value of approximately $106,000.

The town was able to slightly lower the tax levy despite an increase in spending due to an estimated increase in revenue from sales tax and other sources, Caruana said.

Consolidation of services in the Youth, Parks and Recreation Department and sharing services such as an assessor with the City of Tonawanda also helped to achieve savings, he added.

But hospital and medical insurance costs for employees and retirees are up by approximately $1.3 million, Caruana said. The $16.3 million budgeted for those benefits represents more than 16 percent of total spending.

Another significant increase is additional debt payments of more than $1 million for capital projects, including the ongoing Parker-Fries sewer replacement project.

Caruana said department heads were asked to submit budget requests that reflected no increase from their 2013 net operating budgets.

“The budget assumptions and guidelines also provided for the same level of full-time employees in all departments as their 2013 operating budget,” Caruana said.

Town Board members will scrutinize the tentative budget during work sessions scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday. Both begin at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers of the Municipal Building, 2919 Delaware Ave.

jpopiolkowski@buffnews.com