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Most Amherst budget changes tabled More than half of 21 amendments put aside by board

For some Amherst Town Board members, Tuesday's meeting was an exercise in caution and prudence.

For others, it was a big, fat waste of time.

The special afternoon meeting was convened to give board members their first opportunity to discuss potential amendments to Supervisor Satish Mohan's proposed budget for 2009.

But more than half of the 21 budget amendments submitted by board members wound up being tabled, mostly because some members said they needed more information.

"I'm going to vote no to everything today because I don't think we're doing our due diligence," Council Member Shelly Schratz said during the meeting.

After getting several of his resolutions tabled in a row, Mark Manna said, "Why don't we just table the whole meeting?"

In total, 12 resolutions to amend Mohan's $115.7 million budget were tabled. Two more were withdrawn. Only one more meeting is scheduled for Monday to discuss the budget before its adoption, slated for Oct. 27.

Five budget amendments ultimately were approved after more than two hours of discussion. They include:

* A resolution by Mohan reversing his original request to add two new positions -- a purchasing director and a business manager.

* Another Mohan resolution restoring a work crew chief position to the Building Maintenance Division.

* A resolution by Council Member Guy Marlette to cut $7,000 from the Council Members Office in travel, equipment, computer and postage expenses.

* A resolution by Council Member Barry Weinstein to add $36,500 for town computer equipment, primarily to replace computer network equipment that is on the verge of failing.

* Another resolution by Weinstein adding $14,928, primarily to correct a Building Department budgeting error.

Mohan's budget would whittle town spending by $11,500. It also would reduce the property tax levy and tax rate slightly but raise town recreation and permit fees.

The budget also would eliminate 25 vacant positions, lay off four people and use nearly $5.7 million in town savings, or fund balance, compared with $6.5 million this year.

On Tuesday, the board voted, 5-2, against a resolution to merge the Building and Planning departments, tabled a resolution to consolidate the Highway Department and Refuse Control, and delayed action on numerous resolutions that would have added money back into the Highway Department.

A resolution by Marlette that would have restored several positions slated for layoffs, including the jobs held by Planning Director Eric Gillert and Assistant Building Commissioner Robert Danni, also was tabled in a 5-2 vote.

Mohan said the decision to table so many items shows that Council members want to double-check their numbers and make sure they're doing right by the people in these tough economic times.

"We should always make informed decisions," he said.

Council Member Deborah Bruck Bucki said some resolutions clearly need more research and more information. She noted, for instance, that when the board was discussing a proposal to purchase four pickup trucks for the Highway Department, Highway Superintendent Robert Anderson couldn't say how many trucks the department had and when any were last replaced.

Schratz said she wanted to see departments come up with more creative and less costly solutions to address their needs. She also criticized fellow Council members for not being willing to sit down as a group and meet with department heads.

Manna responded by saying, "We're here to make decisions and to work. The time to talk with department heads is all year long."

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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