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Tax shortfall turns out less than expected

Sales tax revenues for 2005 may not be as low as expected, the Town Board was told Wednesday.

During an end-of-year budget balancing session, the councilmen were informed that the decrease in the town's share of Niagara County sales tax revenues would not be as great as originally projected.

Budget officer Winston Moeller said about $2.65 million in sales tax had been budgeted for this year, but only about $2.29 million had come in. As a result, he had expected to draw on the fund balance to make up the difference. Recently, however, that revenue swelled to $2.4 million.

Mortgage tax collections also were down, he noted. About $450,000 had been budgeted but to date, only $391,000 had been collected.

Total revenues for the general fund could be down $150,000 to $175,000, Moeller said. Originally, the shortfall was expected to be nearly $600,000.

"It's not normal that everything would drop at the same time," Moeller said about revenue collections. Still, he was quick to point out that not all the figures were final and that he was not sure about the exact bottom line. The numbers could increase, he said.

Despite the revenue picture, Supervisor Timothy E. Demler said he was positive about the fiscal situation.

"I'm not happy with the increased expenses or the lower revenues," he said. "But I am happy that sales tax is up, all the department heads underspent their budgets and all our programs are in place."

Although the fund balance is down to about $500,000, Demler said he expected that to change when reimbursements arrive from the Environmental Protection Agency for the sewer project. By the end of 2006, the town should have a surplus of $1.5 million.

In a related budget matter, Moeller and fellow budget officer Ed McAllister asked the board to speed up efforts to purchase new computer software that would improve the accounting system in the town.

"We're trying to get it uniform throughout the town," McAllister noted. He said the new system would run about $20,000 to $25,000.

Councilman Kenneth Retzlaff advised them to order the software now and the board would approve the expenditure at a meeting in early January.

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