For Supervisor Timothy E. Demler, it's not the size of the tax cut that matters. It's whether you cut at all.
In his ninth straight budget to reflect a tax decrease, Demler acknowledged the $2.50 per home tax cut is "more symbolic than substantial."
However, the supervisor maintained recently that, despite the size of the results, it was the responsibility of a government to do more to insulate residents from tax increases.
"I know it's not a lot of money, but it is innovative (compared with other municipalities)," Demler said. "It's important to reach for a tax cut -- to show that even in tough economic times, a town can do what it can."
Demler stressed that Wheatfield is the only municipality in the area that has offered consecutive tax cuts.
The $9,437,758 proposed budget for 2005 increases some fees but offers relief in other areas. It also offers some program enhancements, the supervisor said.
Although there is no town general tax, property owners are billed for special district items such as road, sewer, refuse, lighting and fire-protection fees.
A public hearing is set for Nov. 4. Meanwhile, the board will meet with department heads Monday. Both sessions begin at 7 p.m.
The Town Board could change the budget numbers as a result of either session and needs to approve a budget before the end of November.
One of the more significant increases is the projected $27-a-year hike in refuse collection fees. The average homeowner currently pays about $67 a year.
Demler blamed the increase on contract negotiations with BFI Waste Systems. The town is expected to spend about $396,000 a year to have the company pick up garbage. That amount is increased to $526,580 in the 2005 budget.
Offsetting the refuse hike is a decrease in sewer district charges, expected to amount to about $30 a home. Demler said he used about $700,000 from the reserve fund to help pay for sewer costs. An estimated $1.2 million remains in reserve, he said.
The 2005 budget would also create a new source of revenue in the form of a $500 highway and sewer fee charged to developers for each home built. If approved by the board next month as part of the budget, the fee would contribute a projected $65,000 next year.
Other budget items include:
A 2.5 percent cost-of-living raise for all town employees.
Increases in recreation, drainage and library funding.
A combination of the water and sewer department administration services.
The elimination of all fees to use the community center.
The combination of departments would eventually lead to the elimination of one department head, probably through attrition, Demler said.
He noted that he has tried to complete several big projects during his administration -- such as the sewer and drainage networks, the community center and renovations to Town Hall -- while reducing the bond indebtedness from $12.7 million in 1996 to $11 million this year.
"I am proud of our nine years of tax relief," he said. "Nine years of better programs and services and even more proud of the men and women who work for the town and serve our town as volunteers for making this achievement possible."