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As supervisor recovers, tentative budget is under wraps

The Town of Brant has a tentative budget for 2007 -- but other than the Town Board, nobody has seen it yet.

That's because the town's budget process was thrown into turmoil when Supervisor Leonard K. Pero had a heart attack Aug. 18, followed by triple bypass heart surgery.

Deputy Supervisor John D. Arrigo has been in charge while Pero recovers. He helped deliver the tentative budget by the Sept. 30 deadline, but the Town Board elected to keep the budget private -- a move that appears to be unprecedented in Western New York -- while its members worked on it.

Arrigo said that according to the town's legal advice, the budget does not have to be made public until it becomes "preliminary," prior to a public hearing on the spending plan.

Town Clerk Thea A. Ells said Friday that the board has promised a public, preliminary budget by Wednesday, with the public hearing to be held Nov. 9. The budget must be approved by Nov. 20.

Arrigo said the decision was made to keep the budget private even from department heads because it had not reached the stage of a usual tentative budget because of Pero's health.

"These are basically work sheets we're working with," Arrigo said. "We did file a tentative budget, but, according to our attorney, those are considered work sheets. As soon as we're finished with the last workshop, it becomes a preliminary budget."

Arrigo said that there had been no pressure on the board to make the budget public.

"Basically, everybody knows the situation we're in right now," he said. "Nobody's really pressing anything. They're more than satisfied with the answer."

Pero, contacted in Florida, where he is recuperating with family, said he has been keeping in touch with Arrigo by phone daily, something he was doing already when he was in a nursing facility after his surgery.

Pero said he has lost about 40 pounds since the operation. In addition to missing town business, he said, he regrets missing the football season at Erie Community College, where he was going to be the defensive coordinator.

"I really believe in open government; there can't be anything hidden," Pero said. "But the tentative budget isn't really even tentative yet; the numbers aren't there yet. There are a lot of loose ends they're putting together for me right now."

Pero said the prognosis is for him to return to Brant in December.

"I've got another chance at life," he said. "I looking to come back fit and ready to go and fight for the people. I will be back."

e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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