by Susan Mikula Campbell
The Town of Niagara Town Board approved its 2014 budget Tuesday, one day before its Nov. 20 deadline.
The budget, aside from a few small changes in the general fund, is essentially the same $7.73 million tentative budget originally submitted by Supervisor Steve Richards, according to Deputy Supervisor Danny Sklarski, who headed the Town Board's review of the budget.
Residents will be happy to learn that the budget still includes the promised small tax decrease of 5.6 percent for homeowners and 3.5 percent for business owners.
Not all residents attending Tuesday's meeting were happy about the board going into a two-hour executive session shortly after opening its 7 p.m. meeting, despite being served cake first.
The crowd at the start of the meeting slowly dwindled as the executive session dragged on. As the session went into its second hour, Cheryl Reed, there to find out what the board and the budget planned for drainage and road repair in Belden Center, knocked on the supervisor's office door, and said her only response was from Councilman Charles Teixeira who hollered, "You'll just have to wait a minute."
"You should have come out and told us something; it was totally rude; it was not right," she said after the board returned to the meeting room.
Teixeira said town residents "elected us to do a job, and if it takes time to do it, we're going to do it."
Asked why they were waiting while the executive session dragged on, one resident commented, "They should take us out to dinner." "Yeah, breakfast," another responded.
"I'm number 30," said Dennis Collins.
That was 30 on the yet to be started agenda, where Collins was to be reappointed to the town's Board of Assessment Review, with the term to expire in October 2018. He got his appointment at 10:15 p.m. and the meeting adjourned at 10:30 p.m.
Sklarski said Wednesday that the executive session, called for personnel matters, went into a budget discussion, but still fell within executive session law.
"Everything we did in executive session should have been in executive session," he said.
The board came out of that session to unanimously approve the budget.
In other matters:
•Sklarski reported that the town's lawyer had received a response on the request made by the board's majority to ask the state attorney general's office for an opinion on whether Richard's could be asked to step down or be put on administrative leave while he is being prosecuted on alleged charges brought after a grand jury investigation. Sklarski said the letter indicated that in light of the fact that the prosecution was being done by the state attorney general's office, they would decline to render an opinion.
•The board voted 3-2 to hold a public hearing at its next meeting Dec. 10 on whether to give the appointment of the town police commissioner to a vote of the majority of the board. Currently, Teixeira holds the position and Richards has the power to make the appointment each year. Sklarski's own position as deputy supervisor is an appointment by the supervisor. Over the years, Sklarski said, "I think he's done a good job of putting the right people in the right places."