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Williamsville increases tax rate, keeps spending near same level

The Williamsville Village Board voted, 4-1, Monday to approve a $3.17 million budget that would raise the tax rate for 2011-12, but reduce the village tax levy -- the overall amount of money the village collects in taxes.

The board also agreed to cut its own trustee stipends by 5 percent. Until now, the stipends had been $5,505 for trustees and $8,099 for the mayor.

The property tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value would rise 1.5 percent next budget year. But because of successful challenges to village assessments over the past year that reduced overall property values, the tax levy would decline by 2.3 percent, or $35,381.

Last year, the opposite happened. Although the tax rate went down, the tax levy grew by 8.7 percent because of reassessments that dramatically increased property values.

The 2011-12 budget increases spending by 0.6 percent, or $18,826, said Village Administrator Lynda Juul.

The village would use $259,800 in reserves, about 10 percent of the village savings, and cut some costs to village record keeping, grant writing and fire reserve funds for truck purchases.

"We're being very fiscally conservative in keeping our surplus at 30 percent," said Mayor Mary Lowther.

Trustee Jeffrey Kingsley opposed the budget, saying it was "ludicrous" to keep such a sizable amount of money -- more than 30 percent of the overall budget -- in the village's reserves, or fund balance, when the village's own accounting consultants said a 25 percent fund balance is very healthy.

"I don't think that's being fiscally conservative," Kingsley said. "I think that's being fiscally irresponsible."

He had proposed a budget that wouldn't have increased the tax rate, but it was not supported. He criticized the rest of the board for "hoarding taxpayer money."

Trustee Brian Kulpa and others said that with future anticipated cuts in state funding, having more savings set aside for the future was prudent and needed for long-term budget planning.

Water rates for the village will be unchanged, but sewer rates are going up. The sewer water consumption rate will increase from $2.74 per 1,000 gallons of water used to $3.99.

Based on average Erie County Water Authority household water consumption of 84,000 gallons, homeowners would see a $105 increase in their sewer rate bill. Homeowners would also see a $10 increase on a $100,000 home for the property-tax portion of their sewer bill.

In other news, consultants with CRA Infrastructure and Engineering shared their findings regarding the potential consolidation of the Williamsville water system with the Erie County Water Authority.

The findings showed the village would save money on its water rates overall, but low water users -- those who use fewer than 9,000 gallons a quarter -- would wind up paying more for their water overall.

CRA representatives said that 64 percent of the village's water users would see water savings within 10 years under consolidation, while 36 percent of the village's water users would actually see an increase.

CRA's presentation will soon be available on the village's website, village.williamsville.ny.us. A public hearing on this issue will continue May 23. Trustees said they hope to put the issue up for referendum.

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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