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BUDGET FINE-TUNING REDUCES PROJECTED TAX INCREASE TO ZERO

Fine-tuning on the proposed Hamburg town budget, including cheaper health plans for elected officials, has reduced the projected tax increase for town residents to zero.

Property owners in the villages of Blasdell and Hamburg would see a 1.4 percent tax increase, Supervisor Patrick H. Hoak said Wednesday. Hoak said $35,453 will be saved by changing health plans.

Starting next year, 20 elected and appointed officials will not be eligible for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which has become the town's most expensive health insurance premium.

It costs the town $8,736 per year for each of the five officials who opt for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. It will cost $4,879 per person for Independent Health. For those opting out of health insurance, the buy-back program which offers cash back at half the cost of the insurance premium also will be based on the lower-priced insurance.

Reducing the options to elected and appointed officials is the first step toward reducing the cost of benefits for all the town's employees.

"Our negotiating team with union contracts will be working to remove Blue Cross and Blue Shield as an option for all employees due to the high cost," Hoak said, adding that the town attorney is exploring alternatives.

The reduction in the tax increase and the change in the health benefits was good news to village officials, who will be meeting with the Town Board Monday afternoon.

"We're very happy they were able to make the cuts to bring it down to a reasonable 1.4 percent," said Blasdell Trustee Ronald Sporyz. "I would like to see zero or even a reduction."

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