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AS RECYCLING SERVICE ENDS, A QUESTION: WHAT THEN?

The Town of Cheektowaga will be out of the recycling business as of Jan. 1, and one resident quizzed the Town Board on Monday night about what that means.

"I sure am not going to pay to have someone pick up my recyclables," said Elaine Rosenthal.

She asked whether it would cost more for the town to dispose of garbage if residents end up throwing their recyclables away in the garbage instead of separating them.

"There are a number of options the town is still looking at," Town Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak told her, without explaining them.

The Town Board eliminated the Recycling Department when it adopted a $63.18 million budget Monday night.

"This Town Board was faced with some tough decisions," Gabryszak said. "I'm proud of the board for its hard work."

The tax rates for 2003 are down slightly from what had been projected in the tentative budget released in September.

Town residents living outside the villages will see a tax rate of $16.01 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a 5.58 percent increase. The tax rate in Depew will be $10 per $1,000, a 4.1 percent increase. Sloan taxpayers will pay $11.37 per $1,000, up by 7.14 percent. Property owners in the small section of the town in Williamsville also will pay $11.37 per $1,000, up 7.16 percent.

Spending increased by 3.84 percent, and the amount to be raised by taxes is 6.18 percent higher than this year's figure.

Town Board members were able to pare down the tax increase in part by reducing overtime allocations by 10 percent.

"We have cut overtime to what we think is bare-bones," Council Member Thomas M. Johnson Jr. said.

There will be two new housing inspectors hired, with funds for one coming from federal community development block grant funds. About four positions would be added in the Sanitation Department to help cover jobs when employees are on vacation or sick. Recycling employees had been pulled over into sanitation to fill in when sanitation workers were off.

The board also cut four new positions that had been proposed: three in maintenance and a facilities engineer.

The board was able to save the jobs eliminated in the Recycling Department by offering a retirement incentive. Nineteen of the 24 employees who are retiring are blue-collar workers, said Brian Krause, director of administration and finance. The workers in the soon-to-be-defunct Recycling Department would be moved into other positions that open up because of the retirements.

Krause said Assessor William Conway, who has worked for the town for nearly 35 years, is the only department head to take advantage of the incentive.

The supervisor said negotiations with unions to reduce the cost of health care were not fruitful, and so the budget includes no raises for employees or town officials. "I don't know when the last time that happened," he said.

The only exception is the clerk to the Justice Court, who will be receiving a raise of $5,000, to $41,000. Gabryszak said the Town Board made a commitment last year to increase the salary this year and next year. He said he would have liked to see the increase postponed, since other employees are not getting a raise, but other board members thought that the board should honor its commitment.

"That's the only thing that I don't necessarily agree with," Gabryszak said.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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