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Spending plan holds line on taxes

Amherst Town Supervisor Satish Mohan is proposing a $115.7 million budget for next year that keeps spending flat and is designed to have a minimal impact on taxes.

But while residents would see no cut in town services, they would have to fork over more cash for some recreation services because of user fee increases.

In addition, the 2009 budget proposal submitted this week is bound to be controversial because it also includes a few high-profile layoffs and the elimination of 25 vacant positions.

"I'm very glad that I promised in the State of the Town address that I will produce a zero-growth budget for 2009, and that after hard work and cooperation from several Town council members, I was able to do that," Mohan said.

Mohan's budget would whittle town spending by $11,500. It also would reduce the tax levy -- the overall amount of money the town needs to raise in taxes -- by 0.55 percent, from $72.8 million in 2008 to $72.4 million in 2009.

Town Comptroller Darlene A. Carroll said she has not yet calculated an average tax rate for homeowners based on Mohan's budget proposal but hopes to have some estimates by next week.

She did say she expects most homeowners would see their tax bills remain relatively unchanged under this budget proposal because the tax levy is not rising and most homes have not been reassessed this year.

The 2009 budget would use nearly $5.7 million in town savings, or fund balance, compared with $6.5 million in fund balance in this year's budget.

Even so, recreation fees across the board would go up between 5 percent and 10 percent, Carroll said, while building permit and zoning fees would climb 20 percent.

Four people would be laid off under Mohan's proposal. They include Planning Director Eric Gillert, Assistant Building Commissioner Robert Danni, a building maintenance crew chief and a geographic information systems analyst.

Mohan said most of the layoffs reflect his intention to consolidate the town's Planning and Building departments. Carroll said the four layoffs would save a few million dollars in salaries and benefits.

However, Mohan also is planning to add two new town jobs -- an engineering position and a business manager position -- and fill a purchasing director position that was left vacant this year. These job titles would add $230,000 in salaries alone, Carroll said.

Mohan said he is proud of the budget he's put forth, saying, "My plan was based on a simple premise, and that was, if our hardworking taxpayers have to live with less, their Town Hall should, too."

He said both the operating budget and capital budget maintain town services and support preventive maintenance programs for town infrastructure. He also highlighted that his budget will support the new Eggertsville Community Center expected to open early next year.

Mohan gave credit to many of his fellow council members for working with him on this year's budget in many areas.


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