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LOCAL NEWS BRIEFS

>Water Board approves rate increase of 5.5%

NIAGARA FALLS -- The Niagara Falls Water Board has approved a 5.5 percent water and sewer rate increase that will take effect Jan. 1.

The increase means about $3.80 will be added to the minimum $69 water and sewer charge for each home, and will begin appearing on bills in February, March and April, said director of finance Patricia Haick.

Executive Director Robert E. Game said the average homeowner in Niagara Falls will pay just over $500 for water and sewer service in 2006.

The increase will net the authority an additional $500,000, which will help fund a $25.4 million budget for next year. The Water Board adopted the budget and the rate increase last week.

The budget is up by $600,000 from this year. Authority officials said it will create an Information Technology Department with five existing employees, cover an increase in health insurance costs, add no new workers and decrease equipment purchases.

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>Casey House notified of renewed funding

NIAGARA FALLS -- Casey House Youth Shelter recently received notice of renewed funding of $130,000 a year for three years through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Basic Center Grant is one of the main funding sources for Casey House, which is the only emergency shelter for runaway and homeless teenagers in Niagara County.

"This is basic funding to keep the shelter open," said Jennifer Tresch, director of development. "We actually lost it one year in the late '90s and struggled for a year until we could reapply."

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>Dairy farming subsidy is renewed for 2 years

The federal subsidy program for dairy farmers, which expired in September, has been renewed for two years, Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, has announced.

The Milk Income Loss Contract program provides dairy farmers with an option for a monthly payment when the price of milk falls below a set level. Reynolds introduced legislation to extend it earlier this year.

"New York's farmers face severe price instability," Reynolds said. "While we work towards a permanent solution, this extension will ensure that the bottom does not fall out of the dairy market. This legislation will help protect Western New York jobs by providing support to farmers and their employees when it is needed most."

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