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$76 million Cheektowaga budget OK'd Taxes, spending cut; new positions added

The Cheektowaga Town Board on Monday unanimously approved a $76 million town budget for next year that shaves taxes and spending by about 1 percent but allows for staffing several key new postions.

Board members accepted the 40-page budget virtually as it was given to them last month by Town Supervisor James J. Jankowiak. The only change was an addition of $31,000 to the proposed spending for storm drainage, Finance Director Brian M. Krause said.

In other action, Jankowiak announced that police would block off access roads to the town campus from Union Road on Nov. 14 between 3 and 5 p.m. to allow police and town officials to make a traffic study of the campus.

The study is the first step in a multiyear effort to upgrade the Cheektowaga's physical plant, officials said.

Jankowiak said officials are aware that Cheektowaga cannot afford the price tag for fancy new town buildings and said the plan would suit the town because "we're not a Cadillac town, we're a Chevy town."

"We don't need some fancy marble buildings," he said following the meeting.

The town's plans to renovate and update several key buildings, including the police and courts building and the Depression-era Town Hall, were outlined in a report in Monday's edition of The Buffalo News.

Mike Mason, a Maryvale-area community leader, offered his support for the town's plans, saying residents are usually against increasing taxes and town spending, but he added, "If it will help the police, I am for it."

Jankowiak's proposed budget called for the hiring of two part-time sanitation inspectors, a police detective and a part-time deputy town attorney, all part of the effort to combat growing problems in neighborhoods on the town's border with the City of Buffalo.

The only complaint about the budget was offered by Town Councilman Thomas M. Johnson, who charged that the town was burdening homeowners and helping businesses by shifting more taxes to residents and away from commercial properties.

Over the past decade, Johnson said, the town's assessment practices have created a dramatic increase in valuations of residential properties and a corresponding drop in the total valuations of commercial properties.

As a result, he said, homeowners are shouldering a larger share of the taxes collected by the town, while commercial properties are paying a smaller share than in the past.

But other town officials disagreed, including Councilman James P. Rogowski.

Under the 2008 budget, the owner of an average Cheektowaga home valued at $58,000 will pay about $1,488 in property taxes, or about $40 less than this year's total tax bill of about $1,528.

e-mail: tdolan@buffnews.com

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