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LOCKPORT TAX HIKE OF 7.46% FORECAST

City property taxes are expected to rise 7.46 percent when the Common Council meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the Council didn't alter spending in the proposed 2005 budget during a work session Saturday, but it did receive bad news about the city's tax base that forced the tax increase higher than the 7.14 percent announced last week.

Tucker said the vacant former Jubilee supermarket on Chestnut Street is about to be sold by Benderson Development Co. to Lockport's David L. Ulrich for $550,000. It had been assessed at $1.5 million, so the much lower price will reduce the tax base.

The city's other major commercial landlord, Elmer A. Granchelli, won a lawsuit over the assessed values of his properties. Tucker said that resulted in a net reduction of $200,000 to the tax base.

The Council could reduce spending to counteract the decline in total assessed valuation, but Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R, at-Large, said it won't.

Asked if the Council was done making changes on the spending side, he said, "As far as I know, we are. I can't figure out where we can spend any less."

Kibler, chairman of the Council's Finance Committee, said the budget contains no layoffs. He said he expects it to pass unanimously Wednesday.

The primary reason for the rise in the $19.6 million general fund budget is about $800,000 in lump-sum retroactive raises agreed to by four city unions whose former contracts expired at the end of 2002.

The unions also will get raises for 2005, meaning the city is paying three years of hikes in one year.

Salary costs are $1.4 million above the 2004 budget, but overall spending is up less than $1.2 million.

The pay hikes far outweigh $532,000 worth of fringe-benefit cuts, due mainly to the unions' agreement to a cheaper single-carrier health plan.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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