The Town of Tonawanda's proposed budget, calling for an 8.8 percent property tax rate increase, was adopted Thursday night after a budget hearing and work session that spurred questions about rising taxes and possible cost-saving measures.
The Town Board voted, 4-2, along party lines in favor of the $74.2 million spending plan. The budget is up $439,964, or less than 1 percent, from this year's. Taxes on an average home assessed at $50,000 would increase $73.68, for a total tax bill of $914.32.
Supervisor Ronald H. Moline attributed the increase to higher employee health care and retirement costs, debt-service payments for reconstructing Vulcan Street and funds to replace 15 police vehicles.
In addition, Moline said, "Our budget dilemma as an older and fully developed town is that expenses continue to increase as revenues remain static or decrease."
The Town Board's two Democrats at the meeting voted against the spending plan, suggesting ways to lower the tax rate. John J. Flynn, the board's third Democrat, was away on active military duty.
During the work session, Councilman Daniel J. Crangle proposed looking for cuts through attrition with upcoming retirements in the Police Department, which has a spending increase of nearly $500,000. Eliminating one of the department's two assistant chief positions, he said, would save at least $106,000.
But Moline said that such an action would need to be reviewed at the committee level and the purpose of the "budget hearing was not to reorganize a town department."
Councilman John E. Donnelly, the other Democrat at the meeting, proposed adjustments to 29 budget line items involving professional services to save $100,000. Councilman Raymond E. Sinclair, a Republican, said Donnelly should have proposed the modifications at one of the three previous work sessions on the budget.
During Thursday's budget hearing, Charles McGillicuddy, a senior citizen, disputed the tax increase figure.
"My house is assessed at $50,000," he noted. "You conveniently used my house."
With school taxes, he said, he will have to pay an additional $135 to $140 a year. "What you are doing is driving the senior citizens out of this town."
But Margaret Golden offered a different perspective. She said she embraced the increases because she appreciates the town's services.
"You get what you pay for," she said.