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Proposed budget for City of Lockport would raise property taxes by over 3%

LOCKPORT – The city administration is proposing a 2017 budget that would raise property taxes by more than 3 percent while creating several new jobs.

The proposal would raise the tax bill by $52.55 for the owner of a home assessed at $85,000, which is roughly the city average.

“The good news: We are projecting no increases in rates for water, sewer or refuse,” Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said.

The proposed spending plan, presented to the Common Council on Wednesday, must be approved by the State Comptroller’s Office as well as the aldermen, who are scheduled to vote Nov. 16. A public hearing is set for Nov. 2.

The state approval is necessary under terms of the 10-year bailout plan that the city received from Albany during its 2013-14 fiscal crisis.

The budget proposed by McCaffrey and Finance Director Scott A. Schrader carries a property tax rate of $17.61 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, which would be an increase of 62 cents, or 3.64 percent.

The tax levy is to rise by 3.24 percent, or $385,616, far above the state tax cap of 0.6 percent.

“I’m not happy about it,” said Alderwoman Anita Mullane, D-2nd Ward. “We had a hefty increase in water and sewer last year, as well as our taxes. I think it could be whittled down.”

The aldermen agreed to hold budget work sessions with department heads next Wednesday and Oct. 19. “We want to go through it line by line,” Mullane said.

“This is our time to go in and get (the tax increase) down as close as we can to zero,” said Alderman Richard E. Abbott, D-5th Ward.

The mayor said, “One of the most important things is to make sure the budget is balanced and based on accurate numbers.”

McCaffrey said the unedited “wish lists” of the department heads for new jobs and equipment would have resulted in a 15 percent tax increase.

“In some areas, we’re going to enhance services a bit,” McCaffrey said.

Funding for summer help in the Streets, Parks and Forestry departments is being doubled, Schrader said. Also, a second tree-trimming crew is to be created, with a retiring heavy-equipment operator job to be abolished and replaced by a full-time tree trimmer.

The budget includes three new police officer positions, a commitment that the city made in its last contract with the police union. Also, four new firefighter jobs are being added, but their cost will be paid in full by a federal grant the city received this summer. Starting pay is $41,517 for police and $43,515 for firefighters. The Police Department also is to receive a new civilian account clerk.

The budget also includes the return of the vacant public works director position with a $45,000 salary, which Schrader said means it will be part time. He said the cost will be covered by a $50,000 grant the city received from the state Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments, which recommended a more centralized structure for the public works departments.

The water budget includes two new jobs: an account clerk and a water plant mechanic, with the latter job not starting until July 1.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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