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Ways sought to close budget gap

Hamburg town officials still are working on how to make up for the loss of about $600,000 the town had expected from the Hamburg Casino.

This year's town budget includes $1.11 million in revenue from the state for the casino's video lottery terminals.

But under the state budget approved last month, Hamburg will get about half that amount.

The cut would not have been a problem in past years because the town had allocated those funds to pay down debt.

But last year and this year, the revenue was spoken for.

"Because of the increases in the state pension," Supervisor Steven J. Walters said, "we felt we just couldn't spend that kind of reserve to pay off that last bond and still be able to cover the pension increases."

The loss of revenue in the $15.33 million general fund prompted two councilmen to vote "no" April 11 on buying new equipment for the Buildings and Grounds Department.

"How can we spend this kind of money, given that we just lost $600,000 and we haven't addressed how we're going to deal with that?" asked Councilman Jonathan Gorman, who with Joseph Collins, a fellow Democrat, opposed the expenditures.

The measures failed on identical 2-2 votes, with Walters and Councilwoman Amy Ziegler, both Republicans, voting for them.

Walters said he doesn't agree purchases should stop because of the revenue loss, but he respects the councilmen's opinions.

Steps, he said, are being taken to save money.

"We have asked all our departments to submit contingency budgets," he said.

He said the town is looking to reduce expenses, including saving on fuel.

"Each board member has been asked to speak directly to their departments they were liaison to, to really squeeze those department heads into finding every penny we can," Walters said.

The effort, he said, will seek to find increased revenues or budget cuts to get through the year without having to use more from the town's fund balance.