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Lancaster rolls out the totes, pay raises — and a tax hike

The Town of Lancaster will roll out its tote trash removal system in February. The new service will cost the town $2.5 million.

And as with most services, residents will pay.

A 2.78 percent tax increase means town property owners will pay a tax bill of $953.88 for a home assessed at $100,000 — or $25.73 more than they did in 2018.

Lancaster village residents, meanwhile, face a 5.06 percent increase in property taxes. They will pay $575.88 in town taxes for a home assessed at $100,000 — or $27.73 more than last year.

Depew offers trash removal to its residents. Still, they can expect a 6.25 percent increase in property taxes and will pay $272 in town taxes for a home assessed at $100,000, $16 more than in 2018.

The move to totes has now been done in most Buffalo suburbs, with Orchard Park and Grand Island among notable exceptions.

Lancaster Supervisor Johanna Coleman said the increase in property taxes was inevitable considering the increase in the cost of waste removal. Lancaster is paying about $30 a ton for trash removal but its contract with Waste Management is set to expire on Jan. 31 when the rate will jumps 66 percent to $50 a ton, said Coleman.

“The old contract is not renewable," said Coleman. "Given the fact we have this huge refuse contract, we knew there would be a market adjustment. This has been a big project, a lot of work. We tried to make sure we have considered all the options. We did not go into this lightly.”

“It will certainly change the way garbage is picked up in the town,” Coleman said. “I have spoken to supervisors throughout the county. They told me the first two months are miserable, until the public becomes accustomed.”

Many residents for years were pushing town officials to make the switch, but it took the expiration of the town’s waste removal contract coupled with complaints about rodents in the Village of Lancaster that spurred action.

Greg Sojka, a 31-year resident of Bowmansville, is a fan of totes.

“As a licensed nuisance trapper I get calls for raccoons, rats, possums, skunk. Many times, I can follow the animal tracks to where people store their garbage. If the cans don’t have lids, the raccoons will get right in there. Rats can chew through rubber garbage cans,” said Sojka. “It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet with the rodents.

“Lancaster is behind the times,” Sojka said. “Everybody else has already gone to totes."

Not all Lancaster residents support the transition to totes.

Michael Butera, 52, lives in North Lancaster.

“We have zero critter problems here,” Butera said. “Why does the entire town have to get them without having the choice? They should ask the people if it’s OK.”

The Town Board approved the $34.9 million spending plan for 2019 by a 4-1 vote. Ronald Ruffino, who has expressed his desire to run for town supervisor, was the no vote. He said he feared that spending will eventually outpace revenue streams.

A 2 percent pay raise awaits the supervisor and all four trustees on the Town Board. The salary hike will pay town trustees $19,471, up from $19,352. Coleman will make $76,098 including $5,000 for serving as budget officer.

Various department heads and some clerical staff will also receive a 2 percent boost.

Taxpayers are still funding a $10,000 salary increase for Police Chief Gerald Gill provided by a three-year contract that was restructured in 2017. As a result, Gill’s base pay of $114,082 in 2016 climbed steadily — to $116,364 in 2017, and $123,691 in 2018.

Gill will earn a base pay of $126,165 in 2019, according to budget appropriations.

The new budget also appropriated funds for two additional full-time positions: a recreation director at $58,578 and a school resource officer at $62,000, said David J. Brown, Lancaster director of administration and finance.

Two part-time clerical posts were also funded at total cost of $28,000. One of the clerical posts was requested by the Highway Department. The other will work in the town attorney’s office.

The town also plans $11.6 million in improvements to special districts including $1.6 million to the Refuse District, $3 million to the Lighting District and $7 million to the Water District.

The $1.6 million for the refuse district will be used to pay for an estimated 28,000 totes, 14,000 each for recycling and trash, said Coleman. Residents will receive one recycling and one trash tote per address. Additional totes will be available for purchase, but the fee has not yet been determined, said Coleman.

“The bonds will likely be authorized at the next meeting,” said Brown, the finance director. “Of course, the amount we borrow must be budgeted in the future.”

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