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Lancaster town leaders approve tax cap override, table raises for workers

The push by Lancaster Supervisor Johanna Coleman's administration to override the tax cap is a done deal,  but her effort to win pay raises for 12 non-union town employees have stalled.

With the proposed 2017 town budget under the tax cap by only $21,096, town leaders earlier this month said it would be prudent to override the tax cap by adopting a local law as a precaution in case unexpected expenses arise during the new fiscal year.

Coleman went out of her way Monday to assure the public that the town is not looking to actually exceed the tax cap, but wanted the buffer in place for anything unforeseen.

Resident Lee Chowaniec, a local government watchdog, told the board he felt the town had more than enough cushion in its savings allocated in the tentative 2017 budget that it did not need to override the tax cap. "I don't see the necessity of it," he said. "I don't believe there should be an override."

Coleman insisted it was sought as "a precaution."

Councilman John Abraham, who is closely aligned with Coleman, agreed. "I don't want us going over the tax cap," he said, noting it would be precautionary.

In the end, the Town Board narrowly approved the override 3 to 2, achieving the required 60 percent approval by the board. Councilors Ronald Ruffino Sr. and Matthew Walter voted against the measure.

In a separate matter, the Town Board tabled a proposal to increase the compensation and benefits for about 12 full-time, non-union workers that would have closely mirrored what was  awarded two weeks ago to about 60 workers represented by a union. Three board members indicated they would not support the resolution introduced by Coleman. The employees represented by a union are receiving 10 percent pay raises over seven years in a pact that runs from 2012 through 2018.

During the board work session, some board members said the raises for non-union workers should not be approved before the 2017 budget is finalized.

"I leave all options on the table," Walter said, noting he is not necessarily opposed to granting them raises and the suggested benefits. "This ties our hands. It's not a lot of money, but I'd rather let the budget process play out and do the public hearings."

Town Clerk Diane Terranova said the staff in her office deserve the raise. "This is inconceivable, if it comes to a 'no' vote," she said. "My employees work their tails off and they work hard."

Ruffino pushed back. "These are non-union people. You can't just keep continuing to give them what the settlements" are for union workers, he said.

Coleman said it boiled down to "fairness."


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