by Susan Mikula Campbell
Following up on last week's budget hearing, the Wheatfield Town Board on Monday approved an $11.8 million budget for 2012.
At Councilman Larry Helwig's suggestion, expected sales tax revenues of $1,469,967 were increased by $100,000, based on the increase of the town's population as reported in the latest census.
Adding the $100,000 meant the town could further reduce the highway tax from the decrease proposed in Supervisor Bob Cliffe's tentative budget.
The final 2012 budget also includes $12,000 in added cable fees and reductions in expenses of about $18,000.
Cliffe said in the final budget the total tax levy for a homeowner assessed at $125,000 would go down by $40.77 to $562.83, or 6.75 percent in 2012, compared to the 2011 budget. The highway tax alone would decrease from $97.72 to $39.38.
The deficit that met Cliffe when he took office two years ago is being erased.
"By the end of this year, I expect that we will have a fair fund balance overall," Cliffe said. "We have a deficit remaining in the fire district fund, which will be taken care of this year. Unfortunately, we can't use sales tax to reduce the deficit in fire; being a special district, it has to stand on its own."
Cliffe noted that the town also has budgeted for increased funding of both the North Tonawanda and Sanborn libraries and returned funding for Fourth of July fireworks at Oppenheim Park in the 2012 budget.
"This is a balanced budget which maintains all necessary services while keeping a full recreation and parks program for all ages," he said.
In other matters:
•The board authorized solicitation of bids for 65-gallon garbage totes for town residents.
Town Attorney Robert O'Toole said the town is considering changing its refuse contract with Modern Disposal to start every-other-week collection of recycling. Regular garbage collection would remain weekly.
Niagara County recycling expert Dawn Timm has advised that the every-other-week collection would be the most cost efficient way to go and could result in significant savings for the town over time, Cliffe said.
O'Toole said the town could expect payback on the initial cost of the bins within three years.
The totes have lids, are on wheels and are the size of a good-sized garbage can, Cliffe said. There's even a possibility that residents who do the most recycling could be offered rewards, he said.
•The board authorized Wendel Duchscherer, town engineers, to prepare public bid documents for the project to connect the town's southern drainage system to the North Tonawanda outfall culverts. Cliffe said the project was beyond the capability of the Highway Department, which has more than enough to do right now.
•It was announced that the town's annual holiday tree lighting party will be Dec. 3 and the next senior dance will be Dec. 10, both at the Wheatfield Community Center. Town residents also were reminded that the 2 to 6 a.m. winter parking ban on town streets has begun and will be in effect until April 1.
•The board approved a motion to have the town's Economic Development Focus Group solicit contributions and sponsorships for a disc golf course as suggested by the town's Town Centre Focus Group. O'Toole said the group hopes to be able to build the course with no cost to the town.
•The board accepted town resident Justin Higner's offer to volunteer as the town's new liaison to the North Tonawanda Library board of directors.
•A Shawnee Road resident complained that residents attending a Planning and Zoning Board meeting on a new doughnut shop/gas station off Forest Parkway were told that there would be no driveway onto Shawnee, but that without any notice to residents, a driveway has been put on Shawnee. "It's an accident waiting to happen," she said.
•Resident Russell Brumby said a Modern Disposal "can't do" crew has been operating in his neighborhood and suggested the board seek a change in crew. As an example, he told of a bale of hay left behind by garbage collectors on Reynolds Street. He's much older than the garbage collectors, but went and collected the hay to use in his garden. "If I was assigned to the back end of a garbage truck, I would assume there's lifting to be done," he said.
The next Town Board meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28.