By Lauren Zaepfel
The Town of Niagara board held a public hearing Oct. 27, where the 2016 $8.49 million budget and plans for local updates and improvements were highlighted.
The overall 2016 budget increase from last year is $312,166.35, with the taxable amount increasing to $24,313, which is $434 under the 2 percent tax cap.
The tax rate increased by 36 cents per thousand in homestead and 28 cents per thousand in nonhomestead taxes.
"We've increased the budget slightly, just a little bit, because we don't want to keep borrowing from the fund balances to balance the budget," Town of Niagara Supervisor Lee Wallace said. "That's fiscally irresponsible."
The increase is due to a standard increase in taxing entities. For example, the cost of doing business has increased, such as the water and sewer rates to the city and the county.
The budget has also increased due to workers compensation costs, health care costs and the yearly wage increase of 2 percent.
Approximately 20 members made up the crowd at the meeting and not one individual commented on the new budget.
The meeting moved on to other items on the agenda, one being previously approved plans for renovations and the remodeling of Town Hall.
The building will undergo re-organization of some offices, as well as the lavatories, which have not been updated since 1971, at the cost of $33,037. Low bidder, Monroe Products, was awarded the contract.
Other places around town are also due for change. All of the town's parks will be revisited.
"What we are doing is buying all the equipment to refurbish all the satellite parks and then once the spring comes - we are in discussion with Assemblyman John Ceretto who is pushing a member grant for us - and when that grant comes in, we will have the money to install everything," Wallace said. "The playgrounds haven't been touched since the '70s as far as I know, so they'll be all upgraded and look great. ... We are doing them all at once rather than one and another and another."
The resolution was passed to award the project contract for the installation of new external power to Veterans Memorial Community Park to Industrial Power and Lighting Corp., at a cost not to exceed $345,800.
"For those of you who frequent the park, there was never any external power, so everything we'd do, we'd have to deal with generators - concerts and things like that," Wallace said.
Future plans for the park include a fountain, pond and lights, however these specific updates will not be completed this year.
Recently, several trees were planted in the park. "It really looks like a different place now," Wallace said. "Things are coming along all over the town."
Town of Niagara Councilman Danny Sklarski addressed the crowd on where the money for the park projects is coming from.
"The money that the town is spending on parks and other venues ... that's not taxpayers money," he said. "Over the course of the number of years the town ran into a number of agreements with malls and the Power Authority ... that money is designated for recreation use only - the only thing it could be spent on."
To conclude the meeting's main discussions, Sklarski made some positive comments on the new budget.
"I want to commend our supervisor for presenting us with an extremely workable budget. The board met four different time for a number of hours each night and the board did due diligence for the taxpayers of the Town of Niagara without question - a number of department heads came in and to their credit I have to give it to them they requested a little more money, but the board ... felt strong and focused on the taxpayers and businesses in this town and the results are not only a good solid physical budget, but one that is below the tax cap and a livable taxable payment for all of us," he said.