Featured News - Current News - Archived News - News Categories

Wheatfield raises questioned

by jmaloni
Thu, Nov 11th 2010 12:00 pm
With funding for the North Tonawanda and Sanborn libraries safely back in Wheatfield's 2011 budget plans, public attention at Monday's Town Board meeting focused back on the 3 percent raises planned for all employees.

The board will have another budget meeting to discuss its $11.2 million preliminary budget at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15, after which a final vote may be taken that night, or further meetings planned before the budget approval deadline at the end of the week.

Supervisor Bob Cliffe has said the raises allow all employees to be treated equally. The 3 percent is already included in the contract for union employees.

Cliffe and all the Town Board members have previously said they would turn down their own 3 percent raises. Town Attorney Bob O'Toole said he would decline a raise for the second year in a row.  Highway Superintendent Art Kroening and Town Clerk Kathy Harrington said this week that they also decided to turn down their raises.

Wheatfield resident Amy Deull argued Monday that no raises that aren't contractually obligated should be given. She also wanted to know what steps were being taken to change the provision offering medical coverage for life given to elected officials and some employees.

"A lot of people are unhappy with the 3 percent raises that are not contractually required," she said, emphasizing that there is "great discontent" in the community due to the continuation of this year's highway tax and the addition of a new general tax in the town.

The new budget is up about 7 percent from the current year and is expected to cost property owners an additional 7.5 percent in taxes.

"We've had it," said Wheatfield resident Danny Maerten, noting that both business owners and residents are facing increased costs at every level and asking that at least the town keep its tax rate down. "Look at all the other people who haven't gotten a raise in the past couple of years."

Maerten, who is also a part-time dog control officer in the town, said he is willing to set an example by turning down his own 3 percent raise and added that he has not put in mileage vouchers for his work.

The 3 percent increase in pay for all, including step increases, would cost the town an additional $65,100 (union pay increase is $32,000).

Monday's regular meeting crowd was considerably smaller than the emotional budget public hearing held last week. At the Nov. 3 hearing, library funding was the main issue, bringing arguments and even tears from residents angered by the fact that if the $65,000 in library funding were to be cut as proposed in the tentative budget, Wheatfield residents would not have access to any NIOGA library.

"It really offends me in this day and age to have to fight for access to a library," one resident commented.

Cliffe took the blame for the library cut, noting that while he could have presented a rollover budget, because of the deficit the town is trying to deal with, he "wanted to go as minimally as possible," thus allowing the board to add items back in that they wanted to retain. He said a zero increase budget proved to be impossible due to increases in expenditures and the town's deficit.

Several residents at the Nov. 3 hearing also mentioned the 3 percent raises, but that issue was overshadowed by the furor over the library.

Some residents mentioned that they couldn't afford to give their own employees raises, talked about neighbors who are unemployed and pointed out that Social Security payments for seniors haven't gone up in two years.

"You can't have a super class of employees living high off the hog while everybody else is struggling," one man said.

In other matters at Monday's regular meeting:

  • Action was delayed for more study on a proposed plan to deny health insurance coverage to employees eligible for minimal or no cost coverage through a family member. Medical insurance costs are expected to go up $96,577 in the new budget.
  • The amendment to the town code was approved to reflect the increase in dog licensing fees (previously discussed) to cover the state's decision to turn over all dog-licensing duties to municipalities.
  • Leanne Voit of Greenman Pederson consulting engineers in Buffalo represented developer Anderson Estates in describing the new Hoover Road development to be called Whistling Straits. The previous developer had received preliminary plat and environmental review approval for development about five years ago. The current plans show a reduction from 43 lots to 41 and elimination of a cul-de-sac. More stringent state storm water regulations have necessitated a larger detention pond, she said.

In addition, the county is working on a plan to reconfigure some intersections on Lockport Road, which probably will mean a right turn lane will be needed at Hoover in the development.

  • The board approved additional review fees in connection with subdivision review and site plan review: drainage study, $1,250; traffic study, $750; and downstream sanitary review analysis, $750.
  • The next regular town board meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 22.

comments powered by Disqus

Hometown News