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A few more police officers would be put on Cheektowaga streets in 1998; some town officials would see a pay hike; and the town work force would be cut through attrition.

Re-evaluating the Sanitation Department also would be a priority.

Those are some of the highlights of Cheektowaga's $53,682,149 tentative 1998 budget, which -- if approved -- would raise taxes 2.5 percent, or 35 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.

Basically, town taxes would go up about $20 next year for taxpayers with a $60,000 home outside the villages of Sloan, Depew or Williamsville.

The budget was an unexpected challenge this year, said Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak, who submitted the tentative 1998 budget this week.

Proposed spending is actually down from this year's $54 million budget, but taxpayers will be forced to make up a loss in revenue.

Cheektowaga lost $84,000 in projected sales-tax revenue and $55,000 in mortgage-tax revenue, a reflection on the number of town homes purchased or mortgage refinancing.

In addition, Cheektowaga's debt service increased $255,000 because of the way the town's bond payments are spread out.

"That $400,000 equates to about 1.52 percent (of the 2.5 percent tax increase), said Gabryszak, who held a budget briefing Wednesday morning with Town Accountant Robert Kaczmarek. Furthermore, officials said, the town gained $1,075,697 worth of new taxable property this year. That's better than previous years when Cheektowaga saw a loss in assessment, but it's still not as much as some neighboring towns have to work with.

"I don't think it's a bad budget overall," Gabryszak said.

Gabryszak pared down the budget by freezing spending on all non-personnel items at 1997 levels, which should force department heads to get the best deal for their equipment and supply purchases, he said.

The Police Department is one area that didn't get all the funding requested, but police service will not be impacted, said Police Chief Bruce D. Chamberlin.

In fact, the budget includes money to hire five police officers to fill vacancies, town officials said.

"They'll be a big help," said Chamberlin, who hopes to hire the new officers early next year. "When you get to the point when you're down five or six officers you can feel it."

So far, pay increases for some elected officials have survived the budget ax.

Town Board members refused a pay hike so their salaries will remain at $18,552. Gabryszak's salary, however, would increase to $65,662 from $63,750. He would receive an additional $5,000 for serving as budget director.

The town clerk's salary would increase to $55,000 from $52,000; the highway superintendent's to $65,000 from $60,000; town justices' to $57,282 from $54,157; and the tax receiver to $49,000 from $46,500.

Meanwhile, the town expects to save some money in 1998 by cutting as many as 12 blue-collar jobs through anticipated retirements. The town recently instituted a retirement incentive program and can reduce its work force by about 20 next year, thanks to new contract negotiated with its employees union.

The budget also includes a slight decrease in the garbage tax, which is the beginning of more good things to come out of the Sanitation Department next year, Gabryszak said.

"I think we need to take a look at the operation of the department," Gabryszak said. "The past couple years our focus has been on neighborhood preservation. That will still remain a focus in 1998, but I think our biggest focus will be on our Sanitation Department. There are a number of issues that need to be addressed and we will do that."

The proposed tax levy -- the amount to be raised in taxes -- totals $35.7 million, while $17.9 equals anticipated revenues.

Combining the tax rates for the general fund, garbage and lighting districts, taxpayers outside the villages would pay $13.24 per $1,000 assessed valuation, up from $12.89.

Depew residents would see a 3.9 percent, or 30-cent, increase to $8.08 per $1,000 assessed valuation. Sloan and Williamsville residents would see a 3.5 percent increase or 31-cent increase to $9.08.

The Town Board will begin reviewing the budget. Public hearings are expected later this month.

"I expect to see some change," Gabryszak said. "It's at 2.5 percent now and I expect it to come down again."

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