by Susan Mikula Campbell
A last minute move on Tuesday saved Town of Niagara taxpayers some money, but caused some dissention on the Town Board.
As the resolution to approve the 2013 budget came up for a vote, Councilman Danny Sklarski proposed cutting the building inspector position in half, saving $28,752, and eliminating the assistant building inspector position, saving $36,350.
"We have to be prepared to make difficult decisions for the benefit of our town," said Sklarski. "Wheatfield and the Town of Lewiston have one building inspector; we have two."
The amended budget passed 3-2, with councilmen Robert Clark and Marc Carpenter voting nay.
The loudest objections came from Clark, who had to be gaveled down by Supervisor Steve Richards.
"These are things we could have discussed over the course of the budget process," Clark said, insisting that a final vote on the budget be delayed until the Nov. 20 state deadline. He argued that other areas should be cut before eliminating someone's job. "I'm very disappointed. It seems like the entire budget process was a waste of time."
Sklarski and Richards countered that with the town's population declining and the county basing sales tax distribution on population, not where the sales tax is raised, town government has to be "right-sized" or taxpayers would be facing major increases and a town tax. Currently, the town does not have a town tax. Tax rates are based on special district and highway taxes.
The approved 2013 budget is $7,126,944.24. A total of $110,562 was cut from the originally proposed budget by combining Sklarski's amendment and items already cut during board budget workshops.
The 2012 tax rates in the town are $4.98 per $1,000 assessed value for homestead and $8.76 per $1,000 for non-homestead. Without the changes, homestead rate would have gone up to $5.15 per $1,000 and non-homestead, $9.04 per $1,000, according to Richards.
The approved budget will mean that the rate should be down to $4.71 per $1,000 homestead and $8.47 per $1,000 non-homestead, Richards said.
In other matters:
•The board approved an increase in water/sewer rates for 2013. The rate for the lowest users (up to 10,000 gallons) remains the same. The rate for larger users increases 5 cents per 1,000 gallons, Richards said.
•The board approved rezoning to allow the former Gold Circle store on Military Road to be used as a warehouse.
Eric Recoon, vice president for development and leasing for owner Benderson Development, assured the board that a truck dock is being built and there would be some truck traffic but not through the front of the plaza.
•The board approved the appointments of Melissa Cerrillo as deputy town clerk and deputy tax collector; James Hagerman as deputy highway superintendent; and Guido Virtuoso as a member of the Assessment Review Board.
•The board decided to hold one work session next month at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 and the regular Town Board meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 11.
•Public hearings were set for 7 p.m. Dec 11 for rezoning of 7901 Porter Road and 9695 Porter Road from B-1 business to R-1 single family residential.