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West Seneca, Hamburg budgets present mixed picture

Town budget season is wrapping up and it has been a mixed bag for property owners across Western New York; some communities are trumpeting lower tax bills for residents and others looking for services to cut to avoid an even higher tax burden.

The story is similar in two neighboring Southtowns communities. Taxes in West Seneca will go above the cap next year, while Hamburg residents will get a respite from property tax increases under 2019 budgets approved by Town Boards in the two towns.

West Seneca

It was a much quieter budget season this year than last, when residents packed the budget hearing. This year only a handful of people asked questions about the spending plan, which increases the tax rate less than 4 percent.

The town was downgraded one step by Moody's Investors Service in July because of its low fund balance, so the board reduced the use of fund balance to reduce general fund taxes by $200,000.

The total budget, including general and highway funds and special districts, is $57.41 million, up 4 percent, and the total tax levy is $39.84 million, up 5.16 percent, above the tax cap.

The combined general and highway funds tax rate is $21.25 per $1,000 of assessed value, up 3.72 percent. The owner of a house assessed at $100,000 will pay $78 more in taxes next year.

"It was a very difficult process to get to these numbers," Councilman William P. Hanley Jr. said.  "The supervisor already made 56 cuts to the proposed budget. She didn't leave us much low-hanging fruit."

Hamburg

Hamburg Town Board members held the line on taxes for 2019, while spending is up 1 percent in the $48.02 million budget.

The general and highway funds tax rate for residents living outside the villages is $10.85 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, down a penny. The rate for the villages of Hamburg and Blasdell is $5.09 per $1,000, unchanged from this year. The total tax levy in all funds and districts is up 1 percent to $28.02 million.

The budget maintains current programs and services. Councilman Michael Mosey voted against the budget.

Supervisor James Shaw said mortgage tax and sales tax came in $400,000 higher than had been budgeted for this year.

"In the end, we were lucky," Shaw said.

And in a bookkeeping move, the board removed the Town Park from its own enterprise fund and reinstated its expenses and revenues within the general fund.

"It was never designed to make a profit," the supervisor said of the town park.

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