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Proposed budget, tax cut approved

The town tax rate for Wales property owners will go down in 2012, under a $1.5 million preliminary budget approved Tuesday by the Town Board.

The budget, which is unchanged from the one proposed last month, includes a tax rate that is 8.6 percent lower than this year. The total tax rate will be $3.93 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The highway portion of the budget will be reduced by 5 percent for the third year in a row, resulting in a highway tax rate of $1.14 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The total reduction in taxes of 10.02 percent is for the highway, lighting and fire taxes. For the second year in a row, there will be no general town tax.

The exception to the reductions is the $210,521 Refuse Department budget, which is up $6,808, or 3.3 percent, with a tax levy of $195,521. Residents will pay $170.06 per year for trash pickup, or $2.73 more.

The budget includes a 3 percent salary increase for most employees, plus a larger increase for the highway superintendent and bookkeeper.

The board is expected to vote on a final budget at its Nov. 9 meeting, which will be held one day later than usual because Election Day falls on Nov. 8.

Also Tuesday, the board indicated it has additional information that needs to be reviewed before it makes a decision on a request by National Fuel for a special-use permit to operate a proposed compressor station on Reiter Road.

Councilwoman Jude Hartrich, who attended a private citizens meeting last week, said risks include explosions and issues monitoring the pipeline.

Supervisor Rickey Venditti asked National Fuel personnel attending Tuesday's meeting how old the gas lines on Reiter Road are. They said they would have to get back to him with the figures.

Questions also were raised by Hartrich about a National Fuel-owned site in Concord that the Town of Wales has suggested be used instead of the Reiter Road site.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission indicated that if the Concord line was used as an alternative pipeline instead of the Reiter Road site, it would need to be replaced.

Councilman Michael Simon asked how much it would cost National Fuel to dig up 150 acres, but the utility officials did not know.

A group of environmentalists and concerned citizens waved signs opposing the compressor station but were quiet during the meeting. Board members noted that they did not sanction or encourage the signs. An article Sunday in The Buffalo News incorrectly said officials wanted residents to wave the signs.

After the meeting was adjourned, resident Susan Everett, who opposes hydrofracturing and the compressor station, asked Venditti when he was going to fight for the Town of Wales, referring to the compressor station and the lack of natural gas for residents.

Venditti said he and others had fought for the town since they were elected.

He explained the procedure Everett should have used to get her request for gas for all of Wales on the board's agenda and noted that she had an opportunity during board meetings to bring up the issue.

Councilman Michael Simon accused Everett of not having any respect for the board, which has spent much time dealing with hydrofracturing and the compressor station.

Venditti said the regulatory commission has already issued a permit for National Fuel to build the compressor station that will transfer gas from the Marcellus Shale to Canada through the Town of Wales. The Town Board will decide if it will permit using the land for the compressor station.