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GIAMBRA PITCHES REGIONALISM AT BUDGET VOTE

Before the Kenmore Village Board adopted a 2005-06 budget Tuesday night, Erie County Executive Joel A. Giambra proposed a regionalism plan targeting police services that he said could save the village up to $500,000 next year.

"A Kenmore Police Department could remain and should remain," he said. "But why should Kenmore residents pay twice for the support functions that can best be performed by a larger unit of local or regional government?"

Giambra said he wasn't advocating a metropolitan police force but "a concept that would allow Kenmore law enforcement officers to maintain their patrols of the streets of the village and have the back-office functions and various investigative and support functions performed either by the Town of Tonawanda or Erie County."

Dispatching services would be handled by either the Town of Tonawanda, county Sheriff's Department or Central Police Services.

The $13.1 million budget, which features an 8.45 percent tax increase and a 1.85 percent increase in spending, was adopted in a 4-1 vote. The tax rate would rise to $21.83 from $20.13 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for residential properties. The nonhomestead rate would rise to $37.13 from $34.14.

For the owner of a home assessed at about $48,000 -- the average in the village -- the increase amounts to $81.60 per year, Mayor John W. Beaumont said. The tax levy should generate $6.7 million.

Giambra said that homeowners and businesses will be paying $500,000 more next year than now and that to roll back the tax hike, the village would have to embrace "a new business model," exploring cost-saving collaborations in police services, courts, public works and refuse collection.

He said he and his staff have been researching the opportunities. Giambra said he is spreading his regionalism message to the other municipalities in the county.

Beaumont said that he has already begun to work on the 2006-07 spending plan and welcomes ideas to cut costs but that those suggestions would have to at least maintain the current level of services in the village. He said trust is a key issue for village residents.

"You've got to earn trust and demonstrate it and run an effective government that's better than what's already here," Beaumont said. "We'll take a look at what he's proposed. The level of service is not going to drop in the village, that's my commitment to this village."

Resident Marilyn Frank told Giambra that residents didn't mind paying for the costs of police and fire services because they are top-rate.

Trustee Michele Iannello, who voted against the budget because of the tax increase, said she supports money-saving concepts but would like to see a concrete plan.

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