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Town taxes for Lancaster residents will go up less than 2 percent next year under a tentative 1998 budget filed Tuesday by Supervisor Robert H. Giza.

The election-year package totaling $14,675,596 in appropriations follows last year's controversial budget that raised taxes by up to 27 percent for some residents.

"I said last year that when things got back in order we'd try to get taxes in check again, and that's what we're doing," Giza said. "We thought that with the way things have been going with the school budget, and the hit taxpayers took last year, we wanted to make it as good as possible this year."

Under the tentative budget, taxes for town residents in the villages of Lancaster and Depew would go up 5 cents, or 1.75 percent, to a rate of $3.04 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. For town residents living outside the villages, the tax rate would increase 3 cents, or about .53 percent, to a rate of $6.15 per $1,000.

Refuse disposal rates in the tentative budget have been set at $115.65 per unit, a slight increase over the current rate of $115.24. The refuse disposal fee does not apply to Depew residents, who receive garbage services through the village government.

If the budget is adopted without changes, the projected tax and garbage fee increases mean that town residents outside the villages would pay $4.41 more in taxes on a home valued at $100,000. For Village of Lancaster residents owning homes valued at $70,000, the increases would amount to an extra $3.91 on their tax bill, while Depew residents would see their tax bill go up by about $3.50 on a $70,000 home.

Also under the tentative budget, salaries for the town's elected officials will go up 5 percent, a hike that Giza said will bring the salaries into line with those in "other towns our size." Town officials received no pay increase in the 1997 budget, Giza said.

That 5 percent rate of increase means that, if the tentative budget is adopted, salaries for town officials will increase as follows: supervisor pay, including the additional pay corresponding to the job of budget director, will go from $52,397 to $55,017; each of four council seats, from $12,462 to $13,085; each of two town justices, from $26,970 to $28,319; receiver of taxes, from $38,233 to $40,145; town clerk, with additional duties, from $53,112 to $55,712; and superintendent of highways, from $42,930 to $45,000.

Also next year, the town's white-collar employees, including clerks and typists, highway department employees, and Police Department employees will receive salary increases because of union contracts, Giza said. The increases will amount to 5 percent for the Police Department, 4.5 percent for the white-collar employees, and 4 percent for the Highway Department workers, he said.

Giza said that the dramatic tax increase last year was needed to offset a general fund shortfall of approximately $700,000 that the town was faced with at the beginning of 1997. By the end of this year, he said, the town will have reversed that deficit and will be about $275,000 in the black.

"We've tried to present as realistic a budget as we can," Giza said. "We've tried to hit the line, and then have a little bit of a cushion so that we can see how things go."

By law, all area towns must adopt their 1998 final budgets by Nov. 20. Giza said that a public hearing on the town's tentative budget will be scheduled for late October or early November.

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