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BOARD OKS BUDGET THAT RAISES TAX RATE

For the first time in more than a decade, Wales residents will see an increase in the town's general fund tax levy, which will increase their tax rate by 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The Town Board on Tuesday adopted a final budget with a total tax rate of $2.87 per $1,000 for those in the Wales Center Fire Protection District and $5.11 for those living in the South Wales Fire District.

Supervisor Rickey Venditti said the effect on the average home assessed at $75,000 will be another $7.50 a year. The tax rate for the General Fund will now be 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Venditti cited the loss of thousands of dollars in mortgage tax revenues as the reason for the increase.

"A few years ago we were getting $130,000, now we'll be lucky to get $40,000 this year," he said. "I have done much soul searching on the town's continuous depletion over the past few years of our unreserved/unappropriated fund balance. This was being done in order to have a continuous decrease in the amount to be raised by taxes in the General Fund.

"All of us, the Town Board, and the residents, are responsible for letting this practice continue as long as it did."

Venditti said he tried to follow the trend of reducing the general fund but wasn't comfortable with the budget he presented last month.

"It should have been reversed two or three years ago when incoming revenues started to decrease. The Town of Wales basically has been living off savings to offset tax increases," he said.

He added, "The town needs to start a slow rebuilding process with small increases to insure the town's future financial health. With the County of Erie in the financial mess they are in, this is the time to start."

Venditti proposed a $10,000 increase in the tax levy,to $29,713 on a $527,865 General Fund.

In addition, the board voted to rescind the proposed 3 percent salary increases for each board member at a savings of $551 and for the two town justices for a savings of $482.

Venditti had already given up his salary increase in order to have money for a part-time clerk.

He said that even though the salary increases for the board and justices total just a little over $1,000 "with a tax levy in the general fund of $29,713, a thousand dollars helps."

The highway budget is set at $305,872 and carries a tax rate of $1.07 per $1,000, an increase of 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation over this year. The amount to be raised by taxes is $106,672.

Street lighting district for the entire town is $9,460 and carries a tax rate of 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation on a tax levy of $8,510.

The Fire Protection District for Wales Center budget is $119,327, or $3.66 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The Refuse District Budget is $162,063 and will cost $145.45 per unit, a jump of $7.29 per unit.

Venditti said he transferred $207,820 last month from the reserve and tax abatement funds to keep the tax rate down.

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