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BUDGET APPROVED WITH LARGEST TAX RATE INCREASE IN 13 YEARS

Hamburg residents face their largest tax increase in 13 years -- 5.9 percent -- under next year's budget, as approved Monday by the Town Board.

Members of the small crowd at a public hearing raised only one question and made no comments about the $41 million spending plan, pared down by about $300,000 from a preliminary proposal that carried a tax increase of more than 8 percent.

The Town Board blamed double-digit percentage increases in state retirement and health insurance costs plus rising fuel and utility costs.

Members said they eliminated all nonmandated conferences and training, cut the playground staff by 40 percent for next summer, agreed not to fill some vacancies and kept most operating expenses at this year's levels.

Tax increases have averaged 1.75 percent for the past 10 years, the board noted in a statement.

The budget still will provide vital services and maintain a healthy reserve fund, Supervisor Patrick H. Hoak said.

Councilwoman Kathleen C. Hochul described the budget as "an enormous struggle" and noted that Town Board members have not taken a pay increase for 10 years.

"We're squeezing dollars out of everything," she said.

"Some responsibility lies with the governor for passing on costs to the towns," Hochul added.

Town Clerk Catherine Rybczynski said she, the two town justices and the town attorney and deputy attorney volunteered to take 2 percent pay increases rather than the 3.35 percent raises they were to receive to keep them on a par with union employees.

For residents living outside the two villages,the tax rate will be $8.39 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of 47 cents. Residents of the villages face a 22-cent tax rate increase to $3.96 per $1,000.

e-mail: ternst@buffnews.com

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