Raises are proposed for Cheektowaga's elected officials next year, and Monday night town taxpayers called them on it.
Several residents lashed out at a budget hearing against the proposed raises, which range from 3 percent to more than 5 percent.
"Why would there be a wage increase?" asked one woman. "I don't feel this should go on every year like this."
The proposed raises are included in the town's tentative 1997 budget that totals $53.9 million -- up from $52.4 million this year -- and raises taxes about 4 percent.
More than 30 persons attended the hearing in Cheektowaga Town Hall, but about half were town department heads there to answer any questions. The others in the audience were residents looking for answers.
"I don't know how you can do it," said Janice Kowalski-Kelly, chairwoman of the town Republican committee and a Cheektowaga Central School Board trustee. "I don't know how you can raise taxes 4 percent . . . and in the same budget raise your salary."
Mrs. Kowalski-Kelly directed her frustrations at Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak for proposing a raise in his salary, to $63,750 from $61,251. Gabryszak also receives full health-care benefits, use of a town vehicle and a $5,000 stipend for being the town's budget director, Mrs. Kowalski-Kelly added.
Under the 1997 tentative budget, Town Board member's salaries would increase to $19,500 from $18,551, the town clerk's to $52,000 from $49,706, the highway superintendent's to $60,000 from $57,170 and town justices' to $51,656 from $47,724.
Last year, all full-time elected officials received 3 percent raises, while the six part-time Town Board members refused a 3 percent pay hike. "I don't know about everyone else in this town, maybe they have deeper pockets, but I feel like my pockets have been picked clean," added Mrs. Kowalski-Kelly, who ran for supervisor against Gabryszak last year.
The $23,533 in raises for elected officials would add one-hundred-thousandth of a cent to the tax rate, town officials said after the hearing.
A few residents at the hearing had some budget questions about union contracts and town assessments and whether residents could expect a townwide property revaluation soon. The revaluation topic is being reviewed but probably will not happen next year, Gabryszak said.
The general fund tax rate under the tentative 1997 budget would increase by 11 cents to $8.70 per $1,000 assessed valuation for residents living outside the villages.
For residents of the villages, the general fund tax rate would increase 19 cents in Depew, to $7.87 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, and 23 cents in both Sloan and Williamsville, to $8.85.
Appropriations total $53,971,259; total revenues add up to $18,598,489; and the amount to be raised through taxes comes out to $35,372,770.
Officials plan on using more than $2.7 million in surplus -- $1.5 million from the general fund surplus -- to offset taxes.
The Town Board and town department heads will consider the comments and likely make some changes in the spending plan before adopting a final budget in November.