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3-WAY RACE PUTS FOCUS ON TAXES, DEVELOPMENT

A double-barreled challenge to incumbent Democratic Supervisor Robert H. Giza -- from both the Republican and Independence parties -- is giving Lancaster voters an array of perspectives on the town's big issues of taxes and development in the final days before Tuesday's election.

Giza is opposed by GOP candidate Arthur J. Rago Jr. and Lancaster Independence Party candidate Henry R. Gull for the top job, salaried at $55,017 in next year's preliminary budget.

Giza, 60, a veteran of town government who spent 14 years as councilman before winning the supervisor post in 1995, has stressed his experience during the campaign. "I've got the pulse of the community," he said. "I'm a hands-on person, and I know what's going on."

After a tax hike last year that raised rates for residents by an average of 18 percent, Giza said he is committed to "tax stabilization" in the future. In his 1998 preliminary budget, taxes for residents are set to increase less than 2 percent.

Giza said last year's tax increase was necessary to get the town out of a budget deficit of about $700,000 left by the previous administration. "I'm getting things back on line," he said, adding that the town will end the current year back in the black.

Rago, 54, a self-employed manufacturer's representative for industrial products and owner of a promotional products business, is a political newcomer campaigning for "efficient government," lower taxes, and managed growth in the town.

Rago has pledged to cut the size of town government and reduce spending as a way to control the tax rate.

"As supervisor I will bring business skills as well as a sincere concern for the people of this town," he said. "My No. 1 goal is to return tax rates to livable, manageable levels."

Gull, 65, a self-employed auto mechanic, also a newcomer to politics, has touted his "grass-roots" campaign and emphasized a platform of controlled growth and restricted development in the town.

He criticized the town's handling of the construction of a Tops warehouse on Genesee Street and said he will focus on putting a master plan for the town in place.

"The town has taken a turn recently, the people have lost control of their destiny. People have lost control over how Lancaster should look in the future," Gull said. "The growth should be handled as it has been for some 130 years, with some semblance of order."

In addition to the supervisor race, the town's Nov. 4 ballot will include a proposition that, if approved, will increase the length of the supervisor's term to four years from the current two-year tenure.

According to Town Clerk Robert P. Thill, all of Lancaster's elected officials except the supervisor serve four-year terms.

Of Erie County's 26 towns, 14 have four-year terms for supervisor, including Lancaster's neighboring municipalities of Amherst and Cheektowaga, according to the county's Board of Elections office.

If Lancaster switches to the new term length, the four-year terms would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2000. That means that the supervisor elected in this year's vote would serve a two-year term and then would have to run again in 1999 before the four-year tenures would take effect.

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