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Wheatfield adopts 2017 budget

Fri, Nov 11th 2016 11:10 am

Typical homeowner to receive a tax cut

By Lauren Zaepfel

Tribune Editor

The Wheatfield Town Board adopted the town's 2017 budget on Monday. It provides a minimal tax cut to a typical homeowner.

A homeowner with a house assessed at $125,000 would see a 25-cent decrease in a typical tax bill, representing a 0.05 percent reduction.

"It's not much of a savings, but it is a savings," Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said.

Total spending slated for 2017 amounts to $12,869,360, an increase of $66,743 compared to last year's $12,802,617.

"Most of that is in personnel costs going up as they do every year," Cliffe said.

Cliffe also said the primary reason there is a slight decrease in taxes, yet an increase in cost, is that businesses that were tax-exempt within the town are coming onto the tax rolls. More houses are also coming on board.

"So it spreads the amounts amongst more places, so (the tax rate) actually goes down, even though expenses went up," he said.

Councilman Larry L. Helwig said the town's budgets have shown tax decreases for six consecutive years for a typical homeowner.

Helwig commended Cliffe and town Budget Director Edward D. Mongold for working with the department heads to create the 2017 budget.

Skylark Lane resident Curt Doktor also offered his thanks at the meeting, saying it was remarkable taxes were consistently being lowered during what he called challenging times.

•During Monday's Town Board meeting, Niagara County Legislature David E. Godfrey spoke about how Apex Clean Energy's proposed industrial turbines for the towns of Somerset and Yates could negatively affect the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

A press release sent out last week by Save Ontario Shores (SOS), a group in opposition to the turbines, stated Apex Clean Energy plans to install more than 70, 620-foot-tall industrial wind turbines in the towns.

These turbines could create encroachment issues for possible future missions, Godfrey said.

"With a base closure just around the corner, probably 2018, we want to protect that base the best we can," he said. "That base is a $200 million annual revenue stream for the county. ... We can't afford to lose that base. It's a huge economic engine for this area, so we need to protect it the best we can."

Last week, New York State Sen. Robert G. Ortt spoke at news conference held by SOS outside the air base.

"The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is an invaluable asset to Niagara County and our region, and it's important the proposed project does not hinder its capabilities," Ortt said. "The future of the air base is incumbent upon that. Should Apex move forward with construction plans, I will continue to work with Save Ontario Shores, along with state and local leaders, to ensure that the concerns of the community are addressed and that protections are implemented to help keep the base off the chopping block."
During the meeting, Godfrey said, "Another caveat that has just come up - (Apex Clean Energy) has a lobbyist firm that lobbies for them to put the turbines here. That same lobbying firm also is lobbying down in New Jersey, where there are other bases to keep such encroachment out. So, while their lobbying firm is promoting a potential encroachment here, they're protecting other bases."

Due to this conflict of interest and encroachment issues, Godfrey said he and Niagara County Legislator John Syracuse are "very concerned' and are working to submit a request on the county level for an investigation on the matter.

•The Town Board approved a resolution stating its position on local government's level of authority in regard to industrial wind and solar projects.

Recent amendments to Article 10 of the New York State Legislature allow industrial wind and solar power developers to seek certification from the state, rather than local governments of the communities being affected. With a rise in the solar and wind industries, Cliffe said the board wants to state its position through the resolution that it, as the governmental body closest to its residents, should have some control over what is developed in the town.

"Article 10 states that the state (is) the acting body," Cliffe said. "They are essentially the planning board and the town board for (solar and wind) projects."

He added, "We're asking our representatives to give us some control. ... We're signing on with other supervisors and this Association of Towns, asking for our representatives to give us some control over our own future."

The Town Board will host a public hearing at 7 p.m., Dec. 5, at Town Hall on a proposed law regulating the use and installation of ground-mounted solar panels.

•Highway Superintendent Paul A. Siegmann announced winter parking regulations. Parking on town streets will be prohibited from 2-6 a.m. beginning Tuesday, Nov. 15.

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