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Lockport Council raises income ceiling for senior citizen property tax exemptions

LOCKPORT – The Common Council voted Wednesday to raise the income ceiling for senior citizen property tax exemptions from $25,420 a year to the state maximum of $29,000 a year.

Those over the age of 65 who earn less than that amount can have their property assessments cut in half. Only 143 city residents received the break in 2015, which was down from 164 the year before.

Real Property Appraiser Lena D. Villella said she knows of six senior citizens who might requalify this year with the higher income limit. The impact on the tax rate for everyone else would be about 1 cent per $1,000 of assessed value, she said.

The change was sponsored by Alderman Richard E. Abbott, D-5th Ward, and came after a public hearing at which no one spoke.

Meanwhile, city civil service secretary Mary Pat Holz said Thursday that if Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey were to appoint Villella to the city assessor position, it would be a permanent appointment, not provisional, because Villella has passed the civil service examination for assessor in the past.

However, any other candidate who has not passed that test would have to do so, and Holz said it’s too late to schedule one this year; the state deadline was Jan. 26.

Thus, any appointee who hasn’t already passed the test or served as an assessor would be a provisional choice until the next exam, which Holz said probably would be given in March 2017.

In other business, the Council overrode McCaffrey’s veto of the creation of a full-time assessor spot, paying $68,000 a year. Supporters want Villella, a city employee for 29 years, to get the job. However, it’s a mayoral appointment.

The aldermen who backed the idea wanted Villella to combine the assessor job with her current appraiser spot, but that seems to be a nonstarter. McCaffrey said Wednesday she’s against that, and Holz said that only the mayor, not the Council, has the power to ask the city Civil Service Commission to vote on allowing such a combined job.

Also on Wednesday, the Council refused to spend $3,920 to move the identifying sign on the exterior wall of City Hall.

Council President David R. Wohleben sponsored the motion, but no one would second it.

Assistant City Engineer Rolando Moreno suggested having the lettering moved to a high location, since the sign currently is blocked from view much of the year by trees and bushes.

The price was obtained from Surface Solutions, of Lockport, which was hired last year to repair the sidewalk around the flagpoles in front of the building.

The aldermen also scheduled a Feb. 17 public hearing on a special-use permit for All Saints Catholic Church to expand St. Patrick’s Cemetery on Glenwood Avenue by adding a 145-by-150-foot parcel that would add up to 500 more burial plots.