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WITH PAY RAISES REMOVED, BUDGET IS APPROVED

Grand Island's 2003 budget was approved Monday night, but the Town Board -- including the supervisor -- will not be getting pay raises.

The three Republican board members successfully recommended removing the proposed 2.5 percent pay raises from the $6.5 million spending plan.

Each of the four councilmen will continue make $19,597, instead of the proposed $20,087. Supervisor Peter A. McMahon's salary will stay at $64,431 instead of jumping to $66,042. McMahon makes more than the supervisors of Clarence and West Seneca, but slightly less than those in Amherst and Lancaster, who make approximately $65,000.

The three also were successful in their bid to exclude the Youth Advisory Board line item because the committee failed to submit its budget on time.

"It just means they'll be spending the year submitting stuff," said Republican Councilwoman Mary S. Cooke.

Also at their suggestion, the board removed $10,000 from the budget for the town's contract for legal services.

"The law firm proposed a 23 percent increase in legal fees," said Republican Councilman Daniel F. Robillard. "We backed off that, and we're going out to bid."

"It doesn't change the tax rate," said Deputy Supervisor Richard W. Crawford, the other Republican on the board.

The spending plan, which includes general and highway budgets, has a combined tax rate of $4.99 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, an increase of 4.6 percent over this year's figure. The assessed value of Grand Island homes is about 62 percent of fair market value.

In terms of special districts, the 2003 water fund budget is $2.3 million. The tax rate is $5.63 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a decrease of 65 cents, or 10.4 percent. Water rates remain unchanged at $2.45 per 1,000 gallons of water used.

The sewer district budget is $2.4 million. The tax rate is $4.71, a decrease of 55 cents, or 10.5 percent from the current sewer tax rate of $5.26. Sewer rates would remain unchanged at $3.70 per 1,000 gallons of water used.

The garbage fund is $715,000. The wastewater plan is $2.35 million, and the lighting budget is $154,000.

Significant appropriations include retirement incentive buybacks of $148,481. Also, town officials expect an increase of 15 percent in the premium for health insurance and 20 percent for general insurance.

Councilman Kevin M. Rustowicz voted against the budget, calling instead for department heads to reduce their respective budgets for a 10 percent decrease in the tax rate. Opponents criticized the failed measure.

"We would have to lay off people and not buy salt to even think about meeting that 10 percent reduction" said Town Supervisor Peter A. McMahon.

e-mail: dswilliams@buffnews.com

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