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TOWN ADOPTS BUDGET WITH 13% TAX CUT

The Town Board unanimously adopted a $12.4 million budget for 2005 Friday that cuts sewer taxes, while raising salaries for most staff and elected officials.

A 13 percent town tax cut, proposed in the supervisor's original budget, remains in the adopted budget, with rates decreasing from 56 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to 48 cents for 2005.

Also unchanged was a proposal to fund the Lewiston Library at $290,000 next year. That's $60,000 less than requested.

Councilman John Ceretto suggested adding $10,000 to bring the library up to 2004 levels, but the idea was rejected.

"It puts the incentive on the Library Board to seek funding from the village," Councilman D. James Langlois said of the cut. "We've been paying the full shot for the village and (the village's) view is 'We like paying zero.' "

Langlois said he was appalled at the rejection of the district library plan, which would have had every resident pay a share of the library costs. He said he can't see why the village doesn't assess the tax to its residents.

A plan for funding the library from whole town taxes, rather than the town without the village, must be requested by the Library Board and approved by the state.

"Everything in front of us is important," Councilman Daniel Kilmer said of the request for more funding. "It's up to us to tell them that the taxpayers can't afford what they want. I don't think we've been mean-spirited at all."

The largest change in the final budget will affect the majority of residents in the master sewer district. They will see a 48.5 percent drop in rates, from 15 cents to 8 cents per $1,000. The rate drop came from an increase in revenues, caused by more usage, and a decrease in expenses, due to reduced debt service at the water treatment plant, finance officer Alice DiRamio said.

Several proposed salary increases for elected officials changed in the final budget. While all elected officials received raises, some proposals that were higher than the 3 percent cost of living were rejected and lowered, or, in a few cases, increased to a 3 percent raise across the board.

Council members will receive raises, from $10,683 to $11,603, but have given up health benefits. Supervisor Fred Newlin will get the largest raise. His salary will climb from $20,115 to $26,320. However, the salary increase reflects added financial officer duties Newlin has assumed. The current finance officer position was decreased from a full-time to a part-time job, thereby ending health benefits. The savings in salary and benefits will be used for Newlin's increase, and to hire a grant writer on a part-time basis.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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