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A small property tax break of about $2.50 per home is reflected in the 2005 budget passed by the Town Board on Thursday.

After a public hearing, the board unanimously approved what was basically the preliminary budget proposed by Town Supervisor Timothy E. Demler in October.

The $9,437,758 budget increases several fees for property owners but offers relief in a number of other areas. Various town programs would be enhanced in the fiscal package.

Though Wheatfield has no general town tax, property owners are billed for many special district items such as sewer, refuse, lighting, road maintenance and fire protection.

Because of increased contractual costs with BFI Waste Systems, residents are projected to incur an increase of $27 per home for garbage pickup. The 2004 fee is $67 per home.

Next year, the BFI cost is expected to rise to $526,580, from $396,000, and the town is seeking proposals from other companies to see if it can save money.

Demler said the councilmen would put together contract specifications Nov. 10 and review any offers Dec. 6.

The town supervisor said that bid specifications would be sent to BFI, Clinton Disposal in Cheektowaga and Modern Disposal in Lewiston.

"If we get something we want, we could cut taxes about another $10," he said.

Even with an increase in refuse fees, Demler said, the town would offset the total charge to residents by reducing sewer fees by $30 per home.

In the budget, about $700,000 in surplus funding was used to pay sewer costs, and an estimated $1.2 million remains in reserve.

The only significant change made to the budget before the vote was the addition of a secretary for the Highway Department at $17,000 per year. Demler said the salary amount was covered by the discovery of $18,000 in overestimates of salary increases in the same department.

Also included in the budget is a $500 fee for highway and sewer charged to developers for each new home built in the town. The fee is expected to bring in about $65,000 next year.

Other budget items include: a 2.5 percent pay increase for all town employees; increases in library, drainage and recreation funding; a consolidation of the water and sewer departments; and the elimination of user fees at the community center.

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