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The Republican Town Board candidates on Grand Island are calling for a 10 percent reduction in the tax levy next year.

Instead of cutting services, they are proposing to use some surplus funds to trim taxes.

Incumbent Supervisor Peter A. McMahon, a Democrat, agrees that a tax cut in 2000 would be ideal. But the way to do it, he said, is not to dip into the fund balance but to cut spending.

Richard Planavsky, the Republican candidate for supervisor, said the town can cut its tax levy simply by taking about one-fourth of the money left at the end of 1998 in the general fund balance and using it as revenue in 2000.

"Should the town keep that money, or should the taxpayers get a break?" he said. "You should not hold a fund balance that taxpayers need. I'm saying, if we can cut taxes we should."

McMahon defended the town's surplus, saying it's in the target range recommended by financial advisers.

Planavsky, along with Bruce Kaiser and Richard W. Crawford Jr., both councilman candidates, are citing as a reference point the GOP majority's trimming of nearly 8 percent from the tax levy proposed by McMahon last year. This year, the Republicans are aiming to top that.

At the end of 1998, the town had $537,342 in its general fund balance. The general fund balance consists of the year-end difference between the amount of money raised by the town and the amount it spent.

McMahon is still preparing his 2000 budget proposal, which is due Sept. 30. It's too early to offer up hard numbers and proposed tax rates, he said. It's clear, though, the existing fund balance is within the ideal range, he said. According to the town's financial advisers, about $500,000 is an ideal amount to keep in the fund balance.

Planavsky contends the $100,000 budgeted in the contingency fund is enough to cover unexpected expenses. If the town should need more than that in a year, he said, officials should cut back on spending to make up the difference.

McMahon disagrees. This year, sewer problems on Whitehaven Road cost the town $70,000. Add to that the cost of snow removal during the January storm, and the amount for just two unexpected situations exceeds $100,000.

"That's what can get you into trouble, if you have something unexpected, uninsured happen," McMahon said.

If the town is going to be able to cut taxes for next year, he said, it will only be through cuts in expenditures. A prime example of the town government trimming its fat is the consolidation this year of the offices of the receiver of taxes and the town clerk, he said. Similar measures in the future would help cut costs even further.

"My goal is to put together a tight budget that has adequate margins of safety," McMahon said.

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