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Board cuts $350,000, awaits data on dispatch issue

Orchard Park Town Board members reached no conclusions Wednesday night on whether to move police and emergency dispatching to another municipality.

But the board did make about $350,000 in cuts to the proposed 2012 budget, eliminating 3 percent raises for many workers and cutting funding to cultural organizations.

Among the changes agreed to:

*Forgoing raises for elected officials and non-union workers, saving $287,000.

*Eliminating $27,900 in grants to youth service organizations.

*Cutting senior citizen group expenses to $17,000, from $33,000.

*Eliminating $4,000 for the Orchard Park Symphony, $10,000 for the Council of the Arts, $1,200 for the Orchard Park Chorale and $1,500 for Chamber of Commerce holiday lighting.

Some board members had problems with the cuts. Supervisor Janis A. Colarusso said community groups should be given grants for next year and also be told that there will not be the money available in 2013.

"I don't think it's fair," she said.

Another board member said that some of the cuts could affect activities that make the community attractive.

"I'm not in favor of a slash-and-burn budget," Councilman David R. Kaczor said. "All we're doing now is cutting off some quality-of-life issues we have become known for."

Councilwoman Nan Ackerman said that no raises should be given in a budget that could have layoffs. Six positions are slated to be cut, including at least one that is filled.

"I was the individual who said no one should get a raise. They have a job, they have health care," she said. "Times are tough."

Board members also talked about moving dispatch duties to the Town of Hamburg or Erie County, but they did not have firm cost estimates.

Colarusso said discussions with Hamburg last year indicated that the cost would be $15.44 per call, or about $340,000. Town officials who spoke with Erie County officials recently said that the number $50,000 was suggested but that it was not a hard estimate.

"I think we're wasting our time before we have agreements in place," Kaczor said. "I want to find out what the real cost is."

The town employs two civilian dispatchers, and four police officers also cover the dispatch duties. Wayne W. Drescher, the town's accountant, said dispatch costs are estimated to be about $628,000, or $28.49 per call. He said the only way to save money would be to "attrit" the officers through retirements or buyouts.

If the town continues doing dispatch, equipment upgrades of $300,000 to $400,000 would be needed, town officials said.

The issue will be discussed again during the work session Wednesday.