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West Seneca proposes 12 percent tax hike

Expanding health care costs and the cost of repairing West Seneca's aging roads and infrastructure are prompting the town to propose increasing property taxes by 12 percent in its tentative budget.

Much of the hike is due to a large increase in the highway fund spending.

"It's an increase, absolutely," Supervisor Sheila Meegan said of the tax hike.

But the supervisor noted the general fund tax rate is just 88 cents higher, or 8.3 percent, than the 2008 rate was.

The general fund levy in the tentative 2018 town budget would rise 7.9 percent to $13.92 million, while the highway fund levy would jump 19 percent to $11.62 million. Both are above the state tax cap, and the Town Board scheduled a public hearing Oct. 16 on a local law that would all the budget to override the cap.

Spending in the general fund would increase 2.4 percent to $26.51 million, and would go up 14.4 percent in the highway fund to $13.65 million.

A major cause of the increase in spending is an increase in health insurance, which is going up about $189,000 in the general fund and nearly $600,000 in the highway fund. Members of the Blue Collar union in the Highway Department have a more expensive health insurance than other unions, Councilman Gene Hart said. He said the highway fund was short on health insurance by about half a million dollars this year, and money had to be transferred in from the general fund.

West Seneca Supervisor Sheila Meegan says cost of employee benefits has increased nearly $4 million over 10 years.

"There are fixed costs," Meegan said. "They are going to go up."

The cost of employee benefits has increased nearly $4 million over 10 years, and payments into the state retirement system have nearly doubled over the same period, the supervisor said.

She said the budget allocates money to pay for updating the aging infrastructure, including necessary sewer improvements mandated through a state consent order.

The tentative budget also calls for spending $800,000 less from the town's fund balance.

"We're trying to be conservative and build up our fund balance," Hart said.

The steep hike includes a proposed general fund tax rate of $11.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up 76 cents or 7.13 percent, and a highway fund tax rate rising $1.49 to $9.60 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up 18.4 percent.

Department heads would receive the same raises as the union workers they oversee, generally 2.5 percent. Some elected officials would get raises, but the supervisor and councilmen would not.

Town Clerk Jacqueline A. Felser's salary would increase 2.1 percent to $59,810, Highway Superintendent Matthew D. English would make $88,861, a 2.4 percent increase, and the two town justices would each receive $41,768, a 2.5 percent increase.

The Town Board will conduct a public hearing on the budget at 6 p.m. Oct. 16.


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