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SPECIAL DISTRICT RATES TO RISE; GARBAGE FEE UNCHANGED

The tax levies for sanitary sewer, storm sewer and water districts are scheduled to increase next year in Amherst.

However, tax levies -- the amounts that must be raised by taxes -- are down for many lighting districts, due mostly to cheaper contracts negotiated with the power company, town officials said Thursday.

Also, town homeowners would pay $180 next year for garbage collection, the same rate as this year, Supervisor Susan J. Grelick said.

Amherst Comptroller Maureen P. Cilano filed proposed 1999 special district budgets that require almost $23.9 million to be raised in taxes, up about $337,000 from this year.

Special districts provide sewer, water and street lighting services.

There is no townwide special-district tax rate, because tax formulas vary from district to district. So the amounts will vary on homeowners' individual tax bills depending on where they live.

The proposed special district tax figures released by Ms. Cilano are part of Amherst's 1999 budget, which the Town Board will consider next month.

The town's general budget, which includes most town services, does have a townwide tax rate. Ms. Grelick's proposed general budget is due to be released Sept. 30.

"It basically stayed the same," Ms. Grelick said of the special district budget proposal. "It was relatively stable, with fluctuations of less than 1 percent to 3 percent."

Council Member William L. Kindel said he would vote against any budget proposal that includes a tax increase, including special district budgets.

"Not everyone who lives in Amherst has a $500,000 home," Kindel said. "I'm not voting for any tax increase. This Town Board is in no mood for an increase, even for special districts."

The largest special district expense is sanitary sewers, which may require a tax levy of $16,067,463 next year, up from $15,648,471.

Decreases in estimated revenues from $3 million to $2.3 million could lead to the 2.6 percent tax levy increase next year.

Storm sewers also will require about 1 percent more in taxes next year, $3,959,309 compared with $3,922,303 this year year.

Under the proposal, water district levies would total $1,053,447, a nearly 2 percent increase compared with the $1,033,844 raised in 1998.

Lighting districts present the best picture, with a tax levy decrease of 4.6 percent -- from $2,860,539 this year to $2,726,644 proposed for next year.

The levies for about 136 districts will fall, while 107 show increases. The utility expenses for most of the districts range from a high of $55,000 to as low as $1,000, depending on how many street lights line the neighborhood.

Town officials are considering consolidating its lighting districts into a single townwide district.

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