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      Amherst Supervisor Satish Mohan has proposed a budget for next year that would keep spending flat and actually cut tax rates by 2 percent.    Some praise the budget for eliminating 25 vacant positions and clamping down on unnecessary spending. But others say the budget overprojects revenues and underfunds some personnel spending lines. …

   You can't win with sidewalks.    New subdivisions are built without them and residents complain that their kids are placed in danger and it's impossible to walk anywhere. Towns install them and then residents complain that they don't want to shovel them, as happened recently in Orchard Park. Highway departments enforce laws to keep them clear and sa…

   Lake Shore Central School District students and teachers are immersed in all things Chinese this week, because 26 students from a middle school in Jilin Province, China, are visiting.    The best time for them to visit is in the winter, when they have a month off from school. But the idea is for them to leave with a good impression of Buffalo, not a…

   When the Town of Lancaster bought the former Walden Avenue furniture plant for $1.85 million in 2003, it was supposed to be the new home of the town's police department and court system.    Five years later, the Colecraft building at 3949 Walden Ave. is basically empty. Lancaster's police are still crammed in an aged building on Pavement Road. &nbs…

   There are parts or all of eight different school districts in Cheektowaga, so it's not surprising the second largest town in Erie County is the poster child for school district consolidation.    The school districts say they collaborate every day, and save money by working with each other and with Erie 1 BOCES. Working together more is the answer, t…

   Who's not in favor of oral health? Who could argue against a state regulation that could help get some kids get to a dentist, and then get treated?    New York State is requiring public schools to ask parents to provide them with a certificate of dental health for their children. But parents don't have to provide it, and no child will be turned away…

   Maybe they have great food. Maybe kids at John F. Kennedy Middle School don't want to wake up in time to eat breakfast at home, or maybe this is an example of peer pressure gone good.    Whatever the reason, more than half the school ate breakfast at school Thursday. For 75 cents, they get a bagel, or a "breakfast pizza" of a biscuit, sauc…

   What do you get when you mix a highway reconstruction project with modern art?    The Village of Hamburg is about to find out.    It planned to commission four sculptures to adorn the four new traffic circles that came with the Route 62 reconstruction project.    It bonded for $130,000 for two sculptures, and went to private do…

   Mark Lubera is a one-man forest.    Thanks to his efforts in Lancaster, it is estimated that the town has 15,000 more trees than it would have had without him.    In a couple of weeks, we'll start remembering all the trees that were lost when the October Surprise storm hit and the debate will begin anew over whether damaged trees can be…

   Nothing comes easy here.    After the Erie County Board of Elections invalidated petitions aimed at reducing the size of the West Seneca Town Board, the man who headed the petition drive saw it as politics as usual.    "I think politicians' desperation is starting to show here," says Kevin Gaughan, who had hoped that West Seneca…

   Most of us are used to winter's civic obligation, to shovel the walk in front  of our property.    Shirk the obligation and you risk getting a ticket or, perhaps worse, the disapproval of your neighbors.    Every shovelful is saving some amount of tax money that would otherwise be necessary for the local government to do the work. (I…

   A lot of local officials drive taxpayer-funded sport utility vehicles. My column today raised the question of whether that is a good practice, whether it would be a nice gesture for a mayor or town supervisor to trade in the old gas guzzler for something a little more economical.    The officials I spoke with said they had good reasons for driving…

   Two Transit Road plaza owners are at war with one another over a driveway one owner tried to build to help shoppers access a neighboring traffic light.    Eastern Transit Plaza owner Ismet Hallac can't finish his partially paved driveway, however, because his neighbor, Valu Home Centers president Michael A. Ervolina Jr. -- refuses to allow it to be …

   The cooperative efforts between Cheektowaga and Buffalo are a recognition that it makes no sense for a suburb to view the city as some distant land, whose problems and issues are not related to suburban life.    As Town Councilman Stan Kaznowski told me, there is no "visible boundary" between the two communities. So too are the perception …

   When a shopping center bans Metro buses from its property, Buffalo's collective memory is stirred.    We remember Cynthia Wiggins, the 17-year-old who died crossing Walden Avenue in 1995, trying to get to her job at the Walden Galleria. The mall had blocked her bus from entering its property.    Now, the Quaker Crossing shopping center in…