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West Seneca plans 4 percent tax hike in tentative budget

Next year's tentative West Seneca budget would increase taxes about 4 percent, half of the tax rate increase in this year's budget that sparked bitter budget meetings last fall.

And there are no increases for the supervisor and Town Board members included in this budget, after Supervisor Sheila Meegan proposed a 29 percent pay increase for herself two years ago. She ended up getting a 14 percent increase in her base salary that year.

"I feel very good about the budget. Fixed costs are what they are, and they are increasing," Meegan said.

The budget maintains all services, Meegan said in her budget letter.

But there are some economic issues. Interest earnings "are virtually nonexistent," and there are just slight increases in sales taxes, she said.

The town was downgraded one step by Moody's Investors Service in July because of its low fund balance. Meegan said the town has relied on appropriated fund balance since 2011 to reduce taxes in the general and highway funds. Moody's put West Seneca on a negative watch in 2017, and the town cut the use of fund balance in half for the general fund and to zero for the highway fund in this year's budget.

West Seneca taxpayers yell 'I hate you, Sheila' after tax hike is approved

Meegan proposes reducing the amount in the general fund from $450,000 to $250,000 next year in response to the downgrading.

Also facing the town is a $175,000 bill for refunded taxes for taxpayers successfully challenging assessments.

Spending is up 3.12 percent in the combined general and highway funds, to $40.72 million.

And the $25.95 million combined tax levy, which would increase taxes 4.75 percent, is above the state tax cap. Finance Director Megan Wnek said the town has never had a budget that is within the state tax cap.

The tax rate would increase 3.95 percent to $21.27 per $1,000 of assessed value. If no changes are made before it is adopted, the owner of a home with a market value of $150,000 would pay about $47 more in taxes next year.

Raises for the three unions range from 2.25 percent to 2.75 percent. The highway superintendent would receive a 4.87 percent raise to $93,196; town justices' pay would go up 2.86 percent to $42,965; and the town clerk would receive a 2.49 percent raise to $61,305.

The budget hearing is scheduled at 6 p.m. Monday in West Seneca West High School auditorium.

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