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Orchard Park Town Board passes budget — with raises

The Orchard Park town supervisor has not gotten a raise since 2006 — before Patrick J. Keem was elected four years ago.

Next year, Keem and other elected officials in the town will be getting raises.

Keem will be paid $79,735 — up $8,974, or 12.68 percent.

But unlike in neighboring West Seneca, where residents protested a 14 percent raise for the supervisor last year and taxpayers filled Town Hall Monday when the West Seneca Town Board raised taxes 8.6 percent, Orchard Park's budget meetings have been quiet.

No members of the public spoke at the public hearing on the proposed budget.

Keem, a retired dentist who was reelected easily to a second term last week, said his new salary includes an increase of about 1 percent a year. If the salary was based on the actual cost of living, it would be about $85,000, he said.

The median household income in Orchard Park is about $85,600, according to the Census. Town Board members said they looked at the average salaries of similar officials in other towns to come up with the pay for other elected officials.

The two town councilmen’s salaries will increase 8 percent to $21,167 and the town clerk’s salary will go up 9.2 percent to $66,895. The clerk also receives a $4,000 stipend for records management and $4,000 for being the registrar of vital statistics.

Orchard Park's highway superintendent will get a 1.7 percent raise to $75,568. He also receives $11,900 for being parks superintendent and $5,000 for being composting superintendent.

The town justices will receive a 1.96 percent increase, to $46,382.

Spending was up more than $1 million in the 2018 budget, due mainly to the rising cost of employee benefits, staff additions and debt.

The tax levy in the preliminary budget was projected to increase 1.7 percent, but Councilman Michael Sherry said the board decided to use $750,000 less in reserves. That, combined with some other small changes, brings the total levy to $17.01 million, and increase of 6.72 percent.

Sherry said there are some spending increases coming in the next several years, including at least $10 million to replace infrastructure such as water and sewer lines, plus increased policing costs, and three union contracts that are expired that the board hopes to settle next year. Some costs related to the Community Activities Center also will be seen in next year's budget.

"The Town Board concluded that it would not be fiscally prudent or prescient to utilize additional savings in 2018," Sherry said. "We refuse to put this community in the position of double-digit tax increases."

The tax bill, including services such as sewer, water, lighting and refuse, for the owner of a $250,000 market value house in the town would be $1,362 — up $74, or 5.71 percent, next year.

For Village of Orchard Park residents, it will be $1,360 — up $41, or 3.17 percent.

The tax rate for general, public safety and highway funds for village residents will be $6.81 per $1,000 of assessed value, up 31 cents, and $6.83 per $1,000 for residents outside the village, up 55 cents.

Spending is up $1.07 million, or 4.29 percent, to $26.02 million.

The increased spending includes $100,000 for the salary and benefits for a new police officer, $250,000 for increases in health care and retirement payments and about $500,000 in new debt from improvements made to Town Hall facilities, roads and Green Lake.

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