Wheatfield residents should be able to use their library cards at any of the 21 NIOGA libraries in 2011 after all.
The Wheatfield Town Board decided last week to restore $65,000 in funding for the North Tonawanda and Sanborn libraries to the tentative budget proposed by Supervisor Bob Cliffe. With the change, the libraries will be funded at the same rate as this year.
A public hearing on the budget as changed by the board was held Wednesday evening, Nov. 3, after the Tribune had already gone to press.
Cliffe said the preliminary budget prepared by the board is not final and the board still can make more changes. A budget meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, in anticipation of reaching final agreement and adoption of the 2011 budget, but if consensus is not reached, the budget is not due to the state until the end of that week.
Currently, the preliminary budget is $11,238,119, with appropriations up $265,147 from the current budget. This will mean an approximate 7 percent tax increase. On a typical home assessed at $125,000, this will mean an additional tax of $43.09, Cliffe said.
"This is now an extremely tight budget, not a few cents available on any line," said Cliffe, who in his first budget has been struggling with a deficit left behind by the former supervisor.
Councilman and Deputy Supervisor Kenneth Retzlaff said he was happy to see the library funding back in the budget.
"I had tons of phone calls from people asking to have it restored," Retzlaff said.
The boards of the Sanborn and North Tonawanda libraries, as well as the 21 members of NIOGA (libraries in Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties) had voted to deny services to Wheatfield residents if the town didn't contribute to the two libraries it currently helps support.
"It's good news and we hope it stays in the budget," said North Tonawanda Library Board President Paul Sikora. "We're trying to work with the town and be cooperative."
Cliffe said Councilman Larry Helwig had come to the town's budget workshop with a "laundry list of items" that could reduce individual budget lines.
Without including the libraries, the Town Board was able to cut about $45,000 from the budget, Helwig said.
The board has joined Cliffe in not accepting the pay raise that was granted to other town employees. Cuts were made, primarily in supply lines, in all town departments. Overtime funding has been reduced. A couple of jobs could end up being reduced to part time and a vacancy in the Highway Department will not be filled, Helwig said.
The Teen Center line was brought down about $5,800, which continues the closing of the center during summer months and reflects about $4,000 in utility savings. The Community Center line was down $3,900, in part due to the fact that not all of the 2010 funding for the facility was spent.
The bands and concerts line was reduced by $3,500, leaving $1,500, which should be enough for one or two concerts next year, and fireworks, eliminated in the 2010 budget, remain out in 2011, Helwig said.
Also remaining out will be television coverage and the serving of coffee and doughnuts at board meetings as was done by the previous administration.
"Some of these things were nice, but we can't afford them anymore," Helwig said.
On the revenue side, the town should be able to expect a little more sales tax funding, since the 2010 census shows Wheatfield's population up by about 21 percent. Part of the county's formula for dividing sales tax among municipalities is based on population.
"We're going to be getting a bigger slice of the pie," Helwig predicted.
He said a more accurate accounting of sales tax expectations could be available by the time the budget is passed.
"This is a workable budget; the Town Board can be happy with it, and the taxpayers should be happy with it," Retzlaff said.