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Budget approved with no tax increase

The Hamburg Town Board passed a budget Monday night that won't raise taxes for anyone next year.

The preliminary budget presented at the end of September had called for a 1.1 percent tax rate increase in the villages of Hamburg and Blasdell, and no increase in the rest of the town.

But the board decided to reduce the tax levy by dipping into its fund balance -- the town's equivalent of its savings account -- and raising its estimate of its share of revenue from the fairgrounds video lottery.

Wayne Drescher, the financial consultant who works with the town, said a fund balance is not limited to handling cash flow and emergencies, but also can be used to averts spikes in the town's tax rate.

"It's not the town's money, and you don't want to hold onto it," Drescher said. "But at the same time, if you use it right, you don't have to borrow money, and it can help stabilize your taxes from year to year."

Drescher said the amount of money to be withdrawn from the fund balance -- about $2.1 million -- is less than what was used in the current year's budget.

The tax bill for residents with properties assessed at $100,000 -- which would translate into a market value of $153,000 -- will be $899 outside of the villages and $405 in the villages of Hamburg and Blasdell. That's $10 less than for the current year for residents outside the village and the same for villagers.

Councilman D. Mark Cavalcoli described the budget as being in the best shape in several years and said the town has managed to bounce back from two years earlier in the decade when the state imposed $1.5 million in charges for retirement accounts.

"We've gotten through some tough times," Cavalcoli said. "I think the economy is changing. While most of the country is facing a serious downturn in housing, Western New York is not. We never got into that huge bubble of inflation that other areas did. I think we've made some great strides."

Councilwoman Joan Kesner said the town also is seeing the results of a long-term effort to cut energy consumption and reduce health insurance costs by going with a single carrier.

"We're starting to see those results," she said, "and we all think next year can be just as good, and the year after if we stay on track."

Supervisor Steve Walters, a Republican, said the cooperation in the budget process belied the notion that he and the four Democrats on the Town Board couldn't get along or work together.

"It was a collaborative effort," Walters said.

"You could have said that last month," Councilman Dick Smith quipped.

With the vote yet to be finalized with the counting of absentee ballots in a close race, Smith appears to have lost his bid for re-election to Kevin Smardz, a Republican,

If those results hold up, Republicans will have a 3-2 board majority in January because Cavalcoli, who did not seek re-election, will be replaced by Tom Best Sr., a Conservative running with Republican support.


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