Weekly Feature



2010-03-25 / Front Page

Budget hearing turns to talks of dissolution

by LISA A. JOHNSON
Editor

Alber ti Alber ti Only one resident took advantage of the Depew Village Board’s public hearing on the proposed 2010-11 budget Monday night, and he also hoped to spread a message of dissolution.

Irv Reinig of Columbia Avenue urged the board to look at cutting expenses rather than using nearly half of the general fund surplus — $750,000 — to balance the budget.

He added that considering debt is up and revenues are down, using surplus funding doesn’t equate to a truly balanced budget and that village leaders are setting taxpayers up for large tax increases in the future. He pointed to past administrations that depleted reserves that stood as high as $2.5 million in 1995.

“It appears that the administration hasn’t learned from its predecessors’ mistakes,” he said.

Mayor Barbara Alberti said the surplus funding was used because of state Comptroller Thomas Di- Napoli’s recent audits of municipalities and school districts and his calls for these entities to stop “hoarding” money and offer taxpayers relief.

She went on to list the dozens of services village departments provide for the taxpayers’ money and listed administration accomplishments over the past three years, including securing $300,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding, saving $165,000 by eliminating patronage jobs and working with the EPA and other entities to secure $7 million in commitments to clean up lead-contaminated soil on the east side of Transit Road and to remediate a brownfield on the west side.

If the proposed budget were adopted as is, residents in the village within Cheektowaga would pay $17 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a 2.2 percent decrease from 2009-10. In the village on the Town of Lancaster side, homeowners would pay about $11.46 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a 1 percent decrease from this year. For a home valued at $100,000, the tax bill would be about $1,700 in Cheektowaga, while in Lancaster, it would be about $1,146.

The overall tentative plan totals about $12.9 million, including $12.1 million in the general fund, $94,520 in the community development fund and $705,107 in the sewer fund. This year’s overall budget is about $12.5 million.

Alberti touted the tax decreases, saying that the feat was difficult in such tough economic times.

“This 0 percent tax increase is a result of reform,” she said.

The discussion, however, quickly turned to village dissolution. Reinig gave his review of current costs versus costs if the village were to be absorbed by the towns and stated that residents would realize a tax savings. He added that by slowly removing services and lowering expenses, the village could dissolve without conducting an expensive study.

“We don’t need village government,” he said.

Village Attorney Anthony Nosek disputed some of Reinig’s statements, which included assumptions that the village would be able to liquidate all of its assets. Nosek said that even if the village disappears, residents still would need services such as sewer, garbage and water, and they would still have to pay taxes for them.

Firefighter David Anthony also feels costs will not drop if Depew ceases to exists. If it were to happen, all of the fire department’s seven fire trucks and other equipment would be sold, and if department members were successful in forming a fire district — another taxing entity — the equipment would have to be purchased again, and it most likely would be more expensive because it would be newer. He used a new fire engine and its $500,000 price tag as an example.

“The cost of replacing everything is astronomical,” he said.

Rae Keuntz of Rossiter Avenue had another suggestion for those who support dissolution — move.

“If we dissolve the village, it’s not worth staying here,” she said. “This is the best place to be as far as I’m concerned.

The board’s reorganizational meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 5, in the boardroom at Village Hall, 85 Manitou St. The next regular meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 12.

What are your thoughts on the tentative budget? Send a letter to the editor to ljohnson@ beenews.com.

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