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COUNCIL ADOPTS BUDGET FREEZING TAX RATE

Rejecting a last-minute pitch for a tax cut, the Lockport Common Council adopted a 1998 budget Wednesday that freezes the property tax rate.

The budget vote was 6-2 in favor, although after the meeting, Alderman Brian J. Keleher, D-5th Ward, who voted yes, said he meant to vote no, but failed to do because of "confusion" and "miscommunication with another alderman in a Democratic caucus."

Keleher was one of two aldermen who expressed support in a premeeting work session for a tax cut proposed by Alderwoman Cyd L. Bennett, R-6th Ward, who is running for mayor on three minor-party lines.

The two votes against the budget came from Miss Bennett and Alderman Charles J. Montedoro, D-1st Ward.

The total budget of $22,011,601 represents an increase of $476,769 from this year. The city will apply $526,800 from the surplus.

The Council had agreed Tuesday on a budget that would leave the tax rate at $12.21 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. However, Miss Bennett presented her colleagues with a proposal to spend more of the surplus to reduce taxes.

Using an estimate obtained from City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney of $1,338,000 for the city's surplus, Miss Bennett said that reducing the surplus to $1,100,580, or 5 percent of the budget, would drop taxes 3.95 percent.

Mullaney pointed out that although the general fund is healthy, the water and sewer funds are both in the red.

The 1998 sewer fund budget the Council adopted contains a deficit of $109,911.

Mullaney said the sewer fund will lose $155,000 this year, and the water fund will be $95,000 in the hole.

That red ink must be made up from the surplus.

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