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SPECIAL DISTRICT TAXES TO DECREASE NEXT YEAR

Most Amherst residents can expect a decrease in taxes next year for sewers, street lighting and other special districts, Supervisor Susan J. Grelich announced Tuesday.

That's because Amherst anticipates receiving a $6 million federal grant that is pending in Washington for the town's wastewater treatment plant.

The federal grant will allow officials to trim about $1.4 million from special district tax rates, cutting the total 2002 levy to about $20.2 million, or 7 percent below last year's levy, Amherst officials estimate.

Missing from the figures are fire districts -- some of which can expect significantly higher taxes if voters approve pension improvements for volunteer fire companies.

"By the end of the year, we expect to receive the $6 million. . . . It's a strong possibility that we could be receiving another $6 million," Grelich said.

Some of the federal grant is also expected to be used to bolster Amherst's depleted self-insurance fund and other special funds that have been drawn down, she said.

The grant is a reimbursement from the federal Environmental Protection Agency for improvements to the town's wastewater treatment plant made more than 20 years ago, according to Grelick.

Special district budgets announced include:

Sanitary sewers -- $12.7 million; down by 7 percent, or more than $2 million.

Storm sewers -- $3.8 million; up 16 percent, or $533,000.

Water -- $834,000; down 14 percent, or $116,000.

Street lights -- $3 million; up 8 percent or about $222,000.

Grelick also said fire protection districts have until Sept. 30 to present their budgets to the town, so those figures were not included in the announcement.

Nevertheless, in some areas of town, residents could face tax increases as a result of special referendums on firefighters' pensions expected to be held later this year, officials say.

In July, the chiefs of the town's seven fire-protection districts requested pension improvements to permit volunteer firefighters to retire at 55, instead of the current age of 62.

If voters approve the measures, town officials estimate that the improvements will increase Amherst's overall cost for fire protection by more than $190,000. In North Amherst and North Bailey fire districts, residents could face increases of more than 25 percent, officials said.

Residents of Snyder, Eggertsville and Williamsville would not be affected by the referendums. Likewise, the Swormville fire district has opted out of the referendum, officials said.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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