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Amendments could change Mohan's budget proposal

Amherst Supervisor Satish Mohan's proposed $115.7 million budget for 2009 would lead to an overall decrease in homeowner property tax bills, if adopted as is.

However, Town Board budget amendments and observations by the town comptroller are likely to result in changes that will raise budget expenses and possibly reduce revenue estimates.

Comptroller Darlene Carroll said that, on average, town residents would see a 2.2 percent drop in their property tax rate, from $10.46 to $10.24 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of a $150,000 Amherst home would pay about $33 less in 2009 than this year, she said.

The decline results from a reduction in the overall amount of money Mohan proposes to collect in taxes and the addition of new properties to the town's tax rolls, Carroll said.

Council Member Guy Marlette, however, had submitted a board resolution asking that Carroll provide the board a written report of her assessment of potential revenue overprojections and underfunded spending lines.

But on Monday, the board voted 4-3 against receiving such a public report. Instead, several council members arranged to discuss the budget with her privately.

When asked specific questions about the budget, however, Carroll said she is concerned that revenue from sales and mortgage taxes could be overprojected by more than $500,000 in a worsening economy.

"Due to the current financial crisis the country is experiencing, I would have been more conservative in my projections for next year," she said.

Both Carroll and Building Commissioner Thomas Ketchum said building permit fees, which will rise an average of 20 percent next year, might also be overprojected for the same reasons.

The fee increase is designed to raise $330,000 in additional revenue, but the budget assumes permit activity will remain steady, even though the Building Department has seen a sizable drop in revenue from 2007 to 2008, they said.

In terms of spending, Carroll said she was concerned about major cuts in overtime in a budget that would also eliminate 25 vacant positions and lay off four people.

Several council members have introduced resolutions to restore some of these positions. Mohan has also introduced an amendment to eliminate his requests for a new business manager and purchasing director.

Personnel Director Robert P. McCarthy also said there is an error in the proposed budget on highway employee salaries, which do not reflect contracted raises.

Council Member Mark Manna has submitted a resolution that would restore $153,600 in personnel costs to the budget and adjust Social Security contributions to correct this error.

The board will hold a special meeting at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Municipal Building, 5583 Main St., Williamsville, to discuss proposed amendments.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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