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Lack of library funding dominates budget hearing

The Village Board held a public hearing Monday night on a $2.88 million tentative budget for 2006-07 that proposes a 5 percent tax increase.

Under the tentative budget, taxes would rise from the current rate of $5.95 to $6.27 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Not in the proposed budget is the $45,000 that Lewiston Librarian Ronald Shaw had requested. The Lewiston Library is totally funded by the Town of Lewiston at $350,000, up 5 percent from this year. But the lack of village funding has been a sticking point for some years, since the town funding is "outside the village funds," which do not include village taxpayers.

"I have to be grateful for what I get. I hope I can prove our worth and eventually receive more. But I look at libraries like Medina and Batavia, which have similar-sized populations, and they have budgets of over $500,000," Shaw told The Buffalo News after the hearing.

Shaw said they have been able to add more library hours by changing to more-flexible part-time hours (without benefits) due to a recent retirement.

"I'd fight like heck not to lose these hours, but now patrons are asking for longer [library] hours on Thursday nights and Saturdays, but there's just no way," said Shaw.

Mayor Richard F. Soluri said during the hearing that while the village would not fund the library, it could sponsor some type of library project.

Trustee Kenneth J. Kenney disagreed, saying, "I'm all for giving the library something. People in the village should come up with something." Then addressing Shaw, he added, "Let's keep our fingers crossed, there still could be something there."

The board held off on adopting the budget and scheduled a follow-up budget meeting for April 24.

Soluri said the budget hike was due to medical costs, workers' compensation, fuel and gas costs, as well as a 4.1 percent union increase, which also extended to non-union employees.

"The mayor and the trustees are not taking increases and are probably among the lowest-paid government officials," said Soluri, who receives a stipend of $8,000 per year as mayor, and trustees, who receive $4,709 each.

In another matter, the board approved a $196,000 grant-funded project to move the historic Piper Law Office, also known as the "Little Blue House." Kenney rejected the project saying it was "a lot of money to move a house."

Village Engineer Michael Merino said the state Department of Transportation Enhancement Program will fund 80 percent of the project, and the village must provide in-kind services. He said the $196,000 includes moving the house, running sewer and water lines and beautification.

"The next step will be to tell the DOT we want to go forward with this and agree to these numbers. The design work can start in June and we should be able to move the building in late summer or early September," said Merino.

Soluri said the house on Center Street, near Ninth Street, will be moved across the street and then will become a tourist welcome center.

He said they need to move the house so the owner of the land, Emory Simon, can begin to develop the land. Simon donated the house to the village after his requests to tear down the historic home were rejected.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com

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