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Budget plan hikes taxes 5 percent

Taxes would increase by almost 5 percent and more than half of the town's reserve fund would be depleted under a budget proposal presented Monday by Tonawanda Supervisor Ronald H. Moline.

As in past years, Moline said the increase was a result of increases in costs for employee health and retirement benefits.

Moline unveiled his $74.8 million spending plan during Monday night's Town Board meeting.

The budget would increase spending by less than 1 percent. Taxes on an average home assessed at $50,000 would increase $47.45, for a total tax bill of $959.95. The tax levy will generate $34 million, an increase of 4.9 percent over the this year's budget.

"Although this budget process has been particularly challenging . . . the proposed 2006 town budget, with the cooperation of our department heads and employees, will maintain our reputation of providing the highest quality of service at the lowest possible cost as we continue to look for ways to become more efficient," Moline said.

Employees' health and hospital benefits accounted for the largest spending increase in the budget at $8.5 million, representing more than 11 percent of the total plan, Moline said. It's an increase of 7.6 percent, or $600,000.

In addition, the town's contribution to the state retirement system will increase by $200,000. The benefit will cost the town $4.8 million, accounting for more than 6 percent of the budget.

Moline said the town's budget dilemma lies in the fact expenses continue to rise while the town's revenue decreases or remains the same.

As the town has done in the past four budget processes, Moline said, the fund balance has been used again this year to offset the high costs of employee benefits.

However, the town is planning to use less than last year. The money taken from the fund balance will decrease from $8.7 million to $6.4 million. A bright spot could be a savings of $600,000 as the town goes to single-coverage health insurance for all workers.

Comptroller Edward D. Mongold said the projected fund balance is $10 million, possibly leaving $3.6 million. But Mongold said it's highly unlikely the town will use all of the $6.4 million that is slated in the budget.

"We never use all of it," he said.

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com

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