By Mike Pidanick
More Town of Niagara seniors may soon be eligible for a tax exemption.
Officials discussed a revision in the town code that determines a tax exemption for seniors based on income level at a work session on Dec. 7 at Town Hall. The plan is to make the Town of Niagara's tax exemption codes consistent with those of Niagara County.
"This is the logical, certain way to ... increase the number of seniors in our town to qualify for a tax exemption," Town Attorney Michael Risman said.
The tax exemption is for real property owned by one or more individual, each more than 65 years of age, or property owned by a husband and wife or siblings, with one above age 65. According to the plan drawn up by Risman, seniors earning less than $21,000 in annual income would be eligible for a 50 percent tax exemption. The exemptions would be available for those making more on a sliding scale, with seniors making $27,600 to $28,499.99 eligible for a 10 percent exemption.
Currently the 50 percent exemption level is $18,500. In September, the Niagara County Legislature voted to boost the income limits for seniors.
Risman said, "If a senior was making (for example) between $24,000 and $25,000, he or she would be eligible for a 30 percent exemption. ... It doesn't make any sense to have an $18,000 (standard) for us and $24,000 for the county."
During Tuesday night's board meeting, the Town Board set a public hearing on the proposed change for Jan. 17.
In other news
•On Tuesday, town officials approved a slight increase in water rates for 2017. For those using 0-8,000 gallons, the flat rate for water and sewer combined would increase by $5 (from $25 to $30).
Sewer rates would increase by 10 cents for those using greater amounts of gallons.
The increased rates are as follows:
0-8,000 gallons used - $10 flat fee for water, $20 flat fee for sewer.
9,000-30,000 gallons used - $2.50 per 1,000 gallons for water, $3.05 per 1,000 gallons for sewer.
31,000-49,000 gallons used - $2.55 per 1,000 gallons for water, $3.40 per 1,000 gallons for sewer.
150,000 or more gallons used - $2.75 per 1,000 gallons for water and $3.85 per 1,000 gallons for sewer.
The rate increases come after Niagara County raised its rates.
"It's just the nature of the beast," Town of Niagara Supervisor Lee S. Wallace said. "Unfortunately, costs go up. We're trying to keep the budget intact, so we need to stay under the cap, and (this is) one of the ways to do it."
•New Niagara River Greenway Commission Executive Director Jeanne Leccese discussed some of the group's upcoming plans at the Dec. 7 work session. Among the commission's priorities is to have a continuous visible trail that would link Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
"We have a couple of gaps, currently," Leccese said. "There's some opportunities to take some of the trail off of the road, so (this is) the best way to do this."
Another priority is to have continuous signage along the trail "so whether you start in Lewiston or Niagara Falls or the City of Buffalo, you at least have this idea that you could go the full 37 miles from end to end if you wanted to," Leccese said.
Lauren Zaepfel contributed to this report.