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TAX INCREASE DISCUSSED AS BUDGET TALKS CONTINUE

Sloan taxpayers may face a tax increase in the budget for the coming fiscal year, even though former Mayor Kenneth Pokorski submitted a budget less than a month ago that held the line on the tax rate.

The prospect of higher taxes is blamed partly on payments the Village Board contends former Clerk-Treasurer Christine Dodds did not have the authority to make.

To keep from increasing the tax rate, Pokorski incorporated $258,500 from the village's reserves into his budget.

The new administration, headed by Mayor Leonard Szymanski, said the reserves were depleted after Pokorski submitted his tentative budget but before the new clerk took over the books.

Investigators hired by the Village Board are attempting to determine where the reserves went.

But most -- about $238,000 -- might have been paid to the Buffalo Sewer Authority, even though the disputed bill remains under negotiation.

Questions also have arisen over $85,000 officials say was paid to former Village Attorney David Dale.

Both payments were made without board approval, according to Trustee Denis Sommerfield.

Trustee Anthony Sisti, who also serves as the budget officer, said the village now faces the problem of paying for budgeted items with money it no longer has.

"By doing away with that fund balance, that means it has to be replaced, and the only thing to replace it with is taxes," he said at Wednesday night's Village Board meeting.

The board cut $35,000 from the budget, trimming every department except fire.

"To me that comes first -- saving lives and protecting the property," Sisti said.

By state law, the village must adopt a budget by May 1. If no budget is adopted, Pokorski's proposed budget automatically would take effect.

With two budget hearings completed, the board agreed to meet at least one more time to put together a budget.

The public will be able to ask questions during the hearing, scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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