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Budget draft points to overall 3.41% tax rate increase

Cheektowaga Supervisor Mary F. Holtz was hoping for a better financial outlook in crafting her first budget.

But she, like other supervisors who have filed tentative budgets for next year, is confronting increases in gas, oil and health insurance costs.

Gasoline and oil costs are up 80 percent, she said. Road salt has gone up 45 percent and the cost of asphalt is up too, Holtz said.

"I would have liked to have cut taxes," she said. "You don't have a lot of room to maneuver the budget. There's not a lot of services to cut, because there are a lot of necessities."

While the total amount to be raised by taxes would increase 5.46 percent, the average taxpayer would see an overall increase of 3.41 percent over this year, and the owner of a $60,000 house would pay about the same amount as he paid in 2006, she said.

"For the most part, any increases are contract related or gas/diesel fuel related," she said in her budget message.

Spending would increase 4.4 percent to $79.43 million, and the total tax levy would increase 5.46 percent to $59.36 million.

The tax rate for town residents living outside the villages would be $19.64 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is up 3.65 percent. The rate for Village of Depew property owners would be $12.13 per $1,000, up 3.5 percent; and the rate in the villages of Sloan and Williamsville would be $13.45 per $1,000, up 2.67 percent.

The average home in Cheektowaga is assessed at $60,000, and the average tax bill, including special districts, would be $1,580, up $52, Holtz said. In 2006 a house with the same assessment paid $1,582.

Holtz said three positions that were vacant in this year's budget, a recreation position, a clerk and a code enforcement officer, were eliminated. A part-time position was added for records management.

Elected officials would not get raises, while three union contracts call for 2.75 percent raises. Contracts with the Public Safety Dispatchers and Supervisory Association expire Dec. 31.

The town plans to address the cost of health insurance in the coming months. The town moved to a single carrier, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, two years ago and said it saved more than $2 million. But when the contract was renewed in June, it jumped 23 percent, said Brian M. Krause, director of administration and finance. The town had budgeted for a 15 percent increase.

"We were a little behind the eight ball already in 2008," he said. "Then you go into 2009 and have to make that up."

He said the rates are based on the town's experience rating rather than the community-wide rating, and several people in the town group had medical issues.

"Now we're trying to determine what can be modified," he said.

The town has not been impacted, so far, by the national financial crisis, but Krause said he expects payments to the state pension fund probably will increase in another year.

The town still should go forward with its planning for renovations to the police and courts building, Holtz said.

"It's a project we can't let go. The conditions here are horrible," she said.

A public hearing has not been set yet, but probably will be scheduled for Oct. 28. Holtz said she expects the board will adopt a budget Nov. 3.


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