WHEATFIELD – The town’s tentative 2014 budget abolishes the highway tax, trims some other taxes and reduces the town’s current debt, Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said last week.
The spending plan the Town Board is considering is likely to include some new borrowing during the upcoming year for park improvements and a Greenway trail along River Road, Cliffe said.
The owner of a home assessed at $125,000 would see a total reduction in town taxes of $29.28, or 5.62 percent, Cliffe said.
Spending is rising by more than $400,000 or 3.6 percent, to nearly $12.5 million, but non-property tax revenues are projected to grow by nearly $500,000.
The board is counting on continued growth in sales tax receipts, especially in the highway budget, where a $300,000 increase from that source is expected to more than replace the highway tax, which last year brought in $190,000.
Cliffe said during the summer that he had planned to eliminate the controversial tax all along, after his election opponent, Thomas J. Larson, called for that move.
The board received the budget Sept. 30. A work session was held Wednesday and another is slated for 7 p.m. Monday before the regular board meeting.
A public hearing is on tap for 7 p.m. Nov. 6, with budget adoption coming either that night or at the Nov. 18 board meeting.
The budget includes $25,000 for a mosquito-control program being worked out with Niagara County, and $6,000 for “professional nuisance animal control.” Summer camp and other parks programs will continue at no cost to property taxpayers, Cliffe said.
The tentative budget assumes 2 percent pay raises for union workers and elected officials, and makes increased use of surplus funds, whose growth was touted in the town’s external audit issued this summer. The spending plan appropriates $800,000 from fund balances for 2014, an increase of $100,000.
After Wednesday’s work session, Cliffe said the budget plans to reduce the town’s outstanding debt by nearly $1.2 million, but a new bond issue that is currently estimated at $800,000 is expected.
Its proceeds would be used to make improvements in Fairmount Park, including handicapped accessibility for restrooms and other facilities.
That work is expected to cost $450,000, although the exact amount is uncertain because the project is still in the design phase, Cliffe said. The town needs to match a state grant that will pay half the cost.
At Mario Park, the town plans to spread a supply of free dirt it obtained from a county Water District excavation project off Williams Road, to create baseball or soccer fields at the northern and southern ends of the park, and a new parking lot at the Jagow Road entrance.
The River Road project is a commitment the town made as part of the Niagara River Greenway. Wheatfield has a $1.16 million grant in hand for a bike trail that would connect Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda, but the town is expected to supply the rest of the money for an estimated $1.8 million portion which is to be begin in 2014, Cliffe said.
The segment from the Niagara Falls city line to Williams Road is being designed now, as well as a road crossing for the trail near the intersection of Williams and River roads. It then would follow an old railroad right of way to Liberty Drive. The trail west of that point has not been designed – or funded.
The budget includes one new position, a full-time sewer employee sought by water and sewer chief Richard Donner. The current workload has caused him to keep his summer help on the job through the end of October, Donner said.
Highway Superintendent Arthur F. Kroening seeks to fill a position that has been vacant since Michael Ranalli was transferred to the Recreation Department, where he is now acting director.
“We’re going to need that extra position to do some crack sealing next year. We didn’t get much of that done this year,” Kroening said.
Cliffe said there is a $415,000 fund balance in the Highway Department, and $125,000 of that is in the budget. He told Kroening he doesn’t want to overuse it for fear of having to bring back the highway tax.