by Autumn Evans
The Town of Niagara Town Board met Tuesday for a public hearing to approve the 2015 tentative budget, but the meeting was not without issues.
Residents Theodore Janese and Joseph Pullano got into heated arguments with Deputy Supervisor Sylvia Virtuoso and Councilman Robert Clark over expenditures in the budget. Janese said he spent six hours reviewing the budget with Virtuoso over the previous week.
"You can't just accept the budget from the department heads,'" Janese said. "Well, evidently we're in the bag now and we can't fix it in one budget. We've gotta cut down on these departments."
"We'd love to fix it all in one year. We know that's not going to happen," Virtuoso said in response to his concerns. "We tried our very best. We did do a lot of cuts."
The end result was a 2 percent decrease in the homestead tax, leaving it at $4.35 per $1,000 of assessed value, and a 1 percent decrease in non-homestead, leaving it at $8.25 per $1,000.
Janese also brought politics into his argument.
"We're all Democrats here on the board, and I don't want them to just come along and say, because we're Democrats we raise taxes," he said.
"I don't think at this level of government it matters if we're Republican, Independent, Democrat," Clark said. "We're all supposed to work together because we're the easiest form of government for the residents to come talk to.
"We all have differences on this board, not all of us agree on everything, but for the most part we put the B.S. aside and try to make sure that we, along with the residents, don't have to pay outrageous taxes. We're trying to provide the best we can without jeopardizing anything."
After speaking, Janese left the meeting, saying he wasn't "going to spend the night arguing" with the board.
Pullano addressed the board next.
"Ever since our supervisor left, it seems like the town is falling apart," he said.
Virtuoso interrupted him to say that was untrue.
"Evidently, someone's not doing their job if we're getting this kind of baloney now," Pullano said. "I think this is baloney, what we're getting. You're hurting the business, you're hurting the people, not only that, you're hurting the senior citizens in this town.
"I think you people finally got a free hand, and now you're giving it to the people of the Town of Niagara," Pullano said. Virtuoso responded that she was "truly insulted" by the implication.
Councilman Danny Sklarski reported his own findings on the budget.
"It shows a tax decrease for all of us here. It shows a tax decrease for businesses," he said. "This is the best we can do. To decrease it any more would not be the right thing to do."
The budget was approved unanimously.