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LOCAL NEWS BRIEFS

$261 MILLION BUDGET PLAN CALLS FOR 9% TAX INCREASE

LOCKPORT -- Niagara County Manager Gregory D. Lewis on Monday released a preliminary 2005 budget of $261 million that includes all the major programs he had previously recommended be cut or privatized. It still calls for a 9 percent property tax increase.

However, Budget Director Daniel R. Huntington said the administration intends to ask the Legislature to vote on some of those recommendations during budget work sessions set for Monday and next Tuesday. He said the official tentative budget, which Lewis is required to file by Nov. 15, will be Monday's proposal as altered in those work sessions.

But for now, Huntington said, the spending plan does not assume that any of the major changes Lewis had recommended will be adopted by the Legislature.

The budget thus still includes a senior citizen nutrition program and a home health care program, both administered by county workers; maintains ownership of the county golf course; keeps the positions of county auditor and Legislature clerk, which Lewis had asked to abolish; and does not assume either a mortgage tax increase or a new real estate transfer tax will be approved by the Legislature.

Huntington said the number of job cuts, including layoffs and abolition of currently vacant jobs, is about 50 but remains subject to change.

TENTATIVE TAX INCREASE DROPS FROM 15% TO 7%

LOCKPORT -- The Common Council has reduced the tentative 2005 property tax increase to 7 percent.

"I think that's pretty good, coming from 15 (percent)," Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at Large, said Monday after a scheduled work session was canceled.

Saturday, the aldermen made several moves, including a $100,000 reduction in the Fire Department's overtime allocation and a $100,000 increase in the expected revenue from parking and traffic tickets.

That revenue was trimmed at first in the face of a new state law that places fines for traffic violations in state coffers even if they are plea-bargained down to local violations.

However, "(Mayor Michael W. Tucker) had a letter from (State Sen. George D.) Maziarz saying it was going to be repealed," Kibler said.

Tucker said the special session of the State Legislature that is expected to do that is scheduled Nov. 18. The Council expects to pass the budget the previous night, but it will act on the basis of Maziarz's assurance.

Tucker said department head raises will be a flat 3 percent; several officials had sought more. And $7,000 will have to be found to hold the Independence Day fireworks after Cornerstone Community Federal Credit Union dropped its sponsorship of the event.

HUMAN RIGHTS AGENCY HAS ANSWERING MACHINE

NIAGARA FALLS -- The city Human Rights Commission announced Monday it has set up an answering machine in City Hall to take complaints of discrimination from city residents. The number is 286-4463. Callers should leave their name and phone number for a return call from a commission member.

Complaints may also be mailed to the commission at City Hall, P.O. Box 69, Niagara Falls, NY 14302.

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