by Susan Mikula Campbell
A reduction in the highway tax of $20.78, or 3.4 percent, for the typical homeowner assessed at $125,000 is part of Wheatfield Supervisor Bob Cliffe's tentative $11.899 million budget for 2012.
Cliffe presented his budget statement at Monday's Town Board meeting.
By taking advantage of increased sales tax revenues, Cliffe is proposing that the highway tax, created to reduce the deficit in that fund, be reduced a quarter of a million dollars, resulting in the savings for residents.
The board now will begin meetings to review and make changes to the tentative budget. An opportunity for input by residents will come at a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9. After making any additional changes as a result of the public hearing, the board may decide to vote on a final budget at its Nov. 14 regular meeting.
"When I was elected two years ago, Wheatfield was bleeding money. I am happy to say that, as I present this tentative budget for 2012, the town is now operating at a responsible level," Cliffe said in his budget statement. "This is, first, a balanced budget which takes advantage of increased sales tax revenues to eliminate deficits, to meet necessary additional expenses we do have while substantially reducing taxes. All this is done with an eye on the new 2 percent tax cap that we are going to have to live with and how this cap will affect the Town of Wheatfield's budget in future years."
Increases in expenses include $40,000 in the cost of health insurance, $35,000 in the retirement plan, almost $11,000 more for the sheriff's deputy assigned to the town, and $23,000 more for library services.
"Perhaps more important, I recognize that we have to make our Highway Department budget whole again; my predecessor chose to borrow the monies needed to do everyday general repairs," Cliffe said. "I've added $150,000 to that line, bringing it closer to where we need to be to maintain our highways. We also need to keep our highway equipment up to date, so we have additional funds in our equipment line."
Cliffe also put in $10,000 to resume the traditional fireworks display at Oppenheim Park, and $10,000 for printing newsletters "hoping to send out the good news of the town a couple of times in 2012."
The town's fire protection fund at the beginning of 2010 already was $216,000 in the red, and then the fire contract increased $85,000.
"By the end of 2011 that gap will be closing and, with an added tax of $86,000 in 2012, by the end of 2012, I anticipate the fire protection fund to be whole again," Cliffe said.
Expenses in the refuse and lighting funds are not known yet. Cliffe said discussions are in progress with Modern Corp. on increasing the size of recycling bins and collecting less often.
"I feel that this is a responsible budget for the people of Wheatfield. We offer all necessary services, as well as a robust recreation and parks program for all of our Wheatfield residents, young, old and in between. We are now back in the black, we are in control of expenses and looking forward to a better future together," Cliffe concluded.
In other matters:
•The next Town Board meeting on Monday, Oct. 24, will begin with two public hearings beginning at 7 p.m., followed by the regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. The first public hearing will be on an amendment to town code requiring sealed bids to be opened before the Town Board. The second public hearing will be on amending the town code to increase fines for violation of the junkyard law.
•The board decided to go ahead with a revision to town code, requiring the installation of Knox Boxes on all businesses with 20 or more employees or more than 10,000 square feet and residential properties with four or more units. The Knox Boxes hold keys and needed information for fire departments responding to fire calls at these locations.
The boxes will mean volunteer firefighters called out in the middle of the night will not have to decide between kicking the door down or waiting for a key holder to arrive. State code already requires the boxes for new businesses.
Audience members David Lazarz and Danny Maerten objected to the plan both on constitutional grounds and the possibility of keys to the boxes, although allotted only to fire department, going missing.
•Residents of Lakeside faced off on whether their road should be named a court or a drive in a public hearing before the meeting.
Resident Arlene Salvatore argued that since Lakeside Drive doesn't go all the way through to her portion of the road, that section needs to be called something different or there is confusion for everyone from emergency responders to pizza delivery persons. The official designation of that portion of the road as Lakeside Court was approved in 2009, but signs were only recently put up to reflect that change.
Resident Walter Garrow countered that their section of road previously wasn't shown on GPS maps, but now is. He was concerned that the change from drive to court might have an impact on deeds, titles and insurance.
No final action was taken.
•The board approved rezoning and the preliminary plat map for the Captains Way subdivision. Developers are planning to purchase the property from the former Church at Shawnee Landing and put in 13 single-family homes along Captains Way and two commercial buildings on Shawnee Road.
•The board awarded the contract to demolish the burned out house at 7464 Townline Road to Razzani Contracting. An asbestos analysis still needs to be done before demolition can begin.
"It would be nice to get it going as quick as we can for those residents, said Councilman Gil Doucet. "They've put up with that for a long time."