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Budget proposal cuts tax contribution for special districts

Amherst homeowners -- hard hit by tax increases in recent years -- could be in for an election year respite, if early indications prove correct.

This week, Supervisor Susan J. Grelick, who is running for re-election, unveiled proposed special districts budgets that hold the line on spending and provide some small cuts in the amounts to be raised through taxes next year.

In prior years, some residents have been socked with increases of more than 10 percent for sewer, storm drainage, water and street lighting services.

While Grelick is not scheduled to release her overall proposed budget until late Friday afternoon, spending plans for special districts sometimes provide a preview of the town budget.

Amherst Comptroller Maureen P. Cilano told Town Board members Monday the special district budgets will cut spending and the amount raised through taxes to be raised next year. Unlike prior years, officials do not plan to dip into the town's reserves to balance the budgets.

Cilano also predicted that special district tax rates -- which have yet to be calculated -- will be lower because of continuing increases in home assessments.

"Obviously, you'll see the rates going down because of the assessed values," she said.

Opponents also have criticized Grelick for including some speculative revenue items in prior budgets, including settlement money that the town was expecting but had not yet received.

Next year's budgets, however, do not reflect projected savings from a proposed takeover of the town's 8,000 street lights or money from expected settlements with Erie County Sewer District 5 and the Clarence Sewer District, which have agreed to pay sewer fees they had withheld during a dispute.

Figures released by Cilano show spending for street lighting, water and storm drainage will remain flat or decrease slightly. That, however, was accomplished by cutting $210,000 from contractual and professional services for the water district.

Similar cuts for contractual services and other items were made in the budget for Waste Water Treatment Plant 16, which has been the focal point for a state audit of the town's pellet project.

As a result, the plant's budget was reduced by about $1.6 million to $13.8 million.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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