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Blasdell mayor defends budget containing a 4 percent tax hike

Following are recent news developments in Southtowns communities:

*Blasdell -- Village property owners would see their village tax rate increase by 4 percent under a preliminary 2011-12 budget. During a hearing this week, Mayor Michael Petrie defended the plan.

"We could have gone zero percent, but if you want to have a nice village you have to pay for it," he said. "I think people will find it's money well spent."

The estimated tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value is $18.54, up from $17.83.

Budget director Janet Plarr said much of the increase is due to a 40 percent increase in employee benefits under the state retirement system.

The Village Board also approved the merger of the village's water system with the Erie County Water Authority. The agreement allows the authority to acquire the village water supply and distribution systems. It also allows the authority to charge the village rental fees for all fire hydrants in the village.

The village has spent almost two years readying its water system for the May merger.

*Elma -- The Town Board this week voted to ban new permits for digital or LED flashing, blinking and scrolling business signs for six months until the board has time to review the existing code. Councilman Dean Puleo made the motion based on complaints that the current code is "too ambiguous" and needs clarifying.

A code design committee drew up regulations last year, but some officials complained that they were vague.

*Orchard Park -- Daniel B. Kane will take office April 1 as the new Orchard Park village justice. Kane defeated Stephen N. Bray, 310-203, in unofficial results in Tuesday's election.

Bray had been a village trustee and was named village justice in January after Justice Philip Marshall was named Orchard Park town justice.

Jo Ann Litwin Clinton and David A. Rood were unopposed for four-year terms as village trustees. Litwin Clinton had 350 votes and Rood got 338.

Correspondents Nancy Gish and Eileen Werbitsky contributed to this report.