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Town of Niagara preparing 2012 budget

by jmaloni
Wed, Sep 21st 2011 10:30 pm

by Susan Mikula Campbell

Town of Niagara Supervisor Steve Richards on Tuesday set up a date to deliver the town's 2012 budget to his board and took the opportunity to take aim at the state's new property tax cap.

The tentative budget will be presented to the board at a special meeting at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, at Town Hall.

Dates also were set for the board to review and change the budget as they see fit 6 p.m. Oct. 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12.

The board also set a public hearing for 7 p.m. at its regular meeting of Oct. 18 on a local law that would allow the town to override the tax cap limit if needed.

The State Legislature, at the urging of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, passed a property tax cap in June, which limits the growth in taxes to 2 percent (or the inflation rate) a year for municipalities and schools. There are a few exemptions, such as new growth in a community and increases in pension costs that exceed 2 percentage points a year.

"This is the most reckless piece of legislation I've ever seen," Richards said, warning his board that when they work on the budget "This year, you're going to have a big problem."

Contractually mandated raises for employees will easily surpass the Consumer Price Index inflation rate of about 1 percent, he said.

The law will force towns to cut back on necessities, such as salt for roads, and to dip into cash reserves, he said. The irony is that in the Town of Niagara, a 3 percent increase in taxes, prohibited by the tax cap, would only cost the average town homeowner $6.69 for the entire year, he said.

"Does that make any sense? We don't need a special tax cap; they need a tax cap to rein in the state," Richards said.

As one example, he pointed out that when some towns moved in to take over state responsibilities this year, such as Lewiston's taking over the maintenance at Joseph Davis State Park (and doing a better job at it, too, Richards said), there were no corresponding layoffs at the state level.

In other matters Tuesday:

•The board set a second public hearing for Oct. 18 on adopting a town-wide property maintenance code.

"This will ensure that businesses and homeowners keep their properties in decent condition," Richards said. "The only people who need to fear that law are those that have tons of garbage piled up around their houses and businesses. Those days are coming to an end."

•Members of the board made a point of praising Highway Superintendent Robert Herman for the work his department has accomplished and the plans for the future he has made in five months on the job. Councilman Danny Sklarski joked that Herman did such a good job resurfacing Tuscarora Road that "I instructed Police Chief (James) Suitor to watch out for speeders."

Herman, who left his Town Board seat for appointment as highway superintendent, will be seeking election in November on the Democratic, Independent, Conservative and Working Family lines. He was bested in the primary for the Republican line by Donald Schildhauer by only five votes. Absentee ballots counted and added on Wednesday by Board of Elections unofficially showed that Schildhauer won the line by four votes.

•Councilman Marc Carpenter reported that the Kidz 'n' Kites event held last weekend at the town's Veterans Memorial Park on Lockport Road was well attended, and he asked if there was any way the town could encourage organizers to return next year. In the past, the annual event has been held at Reservoir Park, but was moved this year because of construction at the state park.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they ask you the same question," Richards said, noting those who participated fell in love with the town park.

•The board approved payment of $17,404 to RKG Associates for its work preparing an economic study on the reuse of the Niagara Falls Army Reserve Center on Porter Road. Richards said he expected to be traveling to Washington, D.C., soon to further discuss the reuse plan with Army officials. Costs for this work does not affect town taxpayers, due to a $400,000 grant acquired for the town by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Richards said.

•The board approved an increase in the water permit rate for a three-quarter-inch meter for new builds or replacements from $110 to $125. This will cover the increased cost of the meters.

•The board referred to the Traffic Safety Committee a request for a feasibility study on adding an extra right hand turning lane at the intersection of Military and Packard roads due to excessive traffic backing up at Packard and Porter roads.

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