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Town sued over status of tax receiver

The Town of Elma is being sued after changing the locks on the tax receiver's office a day after voters approved combining that office with the town clerk's office in a cost-saving move.

Frank Kester, who served nearly three terms as receiver of taxes, filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court, charging the town with acting prematurely because the election results had yet to be certified by the Board of Elections before locks were changed on his Town Hall office.

Supervisor Michael Nolan said the locks were changed Nov. 8, the morning after the election. Councilman David Polak told The Buffalo News the Board of Elections verified the election results Dec. 4.

Town officials also said Kester claims his salary should continue until the end of his elected term in December 2007.

The town claims that a local law passed July 25, 2006, allows the town to terminate his office immediately after the proposition passed.

State Supreme Court Justice Diane Devlin will hear oral arguments Thursday.

Combining the two departments saves $59,000, but the projected annual savings drop to $38,000 when additional costs are factored in.

Town Clerk Pat King, who also will be tax receiver, will receive an annual $5,000 raise for overseeing the additional department.

Doreen Schafer, deputy tax receiver, and Jennifer Ginter will each receive $1.25 per hour more -- or $2,275 a year -- for taking on additional duties in the merged department.

The "lock box" system established with J.P. Morgan-Chase Bank for tax payments, to bypass Kester's office, costs the town $8,800 a year, and that expense also is factored in. That system was instituted last year after Kester received a scathing critique in a report from State Controller Alan Hevesi.

Town officials said the changes will improve efficiency and customer service.

The Town Board amended the 2006 budget to include financial adjustments for the changes.

In other matters, Rite Aid has presented plans to build a 14,673-square-foot drugstore on a 2.83-acre site next to the Sunoco station on Bowen and Bullis roads. A multifamily home will have to be demolished to make way for the building and 75 parking spaces. No rezoning will be required. Rite Aid wants an access road behind the Sunoco station to give it entrances and exits to both Bowen and Bullis roads. A state environmental quality review is necessary.

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