Weekly Feature

2018-11-08 / Front Page

Lancaster approves 2019 budget

by HOLLY N. LIPKA Editor

The Town of Lancaster adopted its final 2019 budget of $34.9 million at Monday night’s meeting, but the vote wasn’t unanimous.

The budget was approved by a vote of 4-1, with Councilman Ronald Ruffino voting against it because of his “fear of the inability to consistently be able to sustain the spend.”

“Our spending continues to rise drastically, and today it is being covered by increased revenue streams such as market gains and additional new tax revenue. What will happen when those revenue streams dry up?” said Ruffino. “Just because we have additional revenue coming in, it doesn’t mean that we have to spend every penny.”

The councilman also discussed his aversion to salary increases for some of the town’s non-bargaining workers.

“This budget contains increases that are over 10 percent to some of our non-bargaining unit employees, which will not be in line with the union employee increases,” said Ruffino.

“All of our employees are extremely vital in providing services for our town, but our union employees are the people that are on the front line, like our police officers who keep our town safe, our highway workers who keep our roads clear, and our parks employees who keep our parks clean and beautiful. These are the employees that are sometimes working weekends and holidays to service our community.”

Ruffino’s statements were countered by Councilwoman Dawn Gaczewski, who asked if Ruffino had worked with Supervisor Johanna Coleman and Director of Finance David Brown to reduce the budget.

“I did that a few years ago with yourself separately, and I was shut down. It’s pretty much the same old program,” answered Ruffino.

Gaczewski said if he had further comments, she would have liked to have heard about them and suggested to Ruffino that he should “continue to vouch for the sake of our taxpayers.”

This year, there were no changes made from the preliminary budget to the adopted budget. The general fund for 2019 is roughly $10.4 million, an increase of about $640,000 from 2018.

The town’s tax levy — the amount of money needed to be raised by property taxes — is below the tax cap at $7.74 million, an increase of roughly $580,000.

The approved 2019 tax rate is $2.58 per $1,000 of taxable valuations, an increase of 15 cents from the 2018 budget.

Residents in the Town of Lancaster will see an annual increase of $16.38 in taxes for a home assessed at $100,000, a less than 1 percent increase from the 2018 budget.

Taxes will also increase in the villages of Lancaster and Depew. In the Village of Lancaster, taxes will increase by 2.25 percent, which equates to an annual increase of $18.38 for a home assessed at $100,000. Village of Depew residents see an annual increase of $16 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, a 6.25 percent increase from this year.

The special districts budget, which includes refuse, lighting, fire protection and water, was also approved at the meeting, but with a unanimous vote. Only one change was made to the special districts budget from the preliminary budget. There was an increase of $129,000 for the Refuse District.

The town’s existing contracts with Waste Management Inc. for garbage and recycling collection and disposal are set to expire Jan. 31. Coleman said the town could not renew the current program due to the current market conditions and needs to sign a new contract.

“We are currently paying $33 a ton for disposal. The disposal rate is going up to $50 a ton for disposal,” said Coleman. “We had a benefit for a number of years with a very low disposal rate, and now we’re getting hit no matter what. That’s the reason for the increase.”

The Town Board approved a resolution at Monday night’s meeting confirming that the town and Waste Management Inc. have started working on negotiations for the new program.

Two new full-time positions, including a recreation director and school resource officer, and two part-time positions, including a clerical position to update the town’s geographical information system regarding drainage, and a clerking position for the town attorney’s office, were approved for the 2019 budget.

Several of Lancaster’s highest-paid officials, including Coleman, can expect a 2 percent pay raise next year. The four council members will also receive a 2 percent pay raise, increasing their salaries from $19,352 to $19,741.

Before voting on the overall budget, Councilman Matt Walter thanked Coleman and Brown for their efforts.

“The fact that this budget sees less than a 1 percent increase, along with the sewer project, the lighting project, refuse project and all of the other huge projects that we’re required to do, is downright amazing to me,” said Walter.

Several public hearings will be held at the next Town Board meeting on Nov. 19 concerning the projects Walter mentioned. The town is looking to make $1.6 million in improvements to the Refuse District, $3 million in improvements to the Lighting District and $7 million to the Water District. Public hearings on the matters will begin at 7:15 p.m.

Town Board meetings are held at 21 Central Ave in Lancaster. There is always a work session a half-hour prior to each meeting, unless otherwise specified by the town clerk.

For more information or to view the full adopted budget, visit www.lancasterny.gov.

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