Weekly Feature

2018-10-11 / Front Page

Benczkowski’s budget calls for 1.1 percent levy hike

Supervisor Diane Benczkowski submitted a $92.6 million tentative 2019 budget to the Town Clerk on Oct. 1, that, if passed, would mean homeowners would see an increase of $24.66 for every $100,000 of assessed home value.

The tax levy would increase 1.1 percent, and the total budget would be up just slightly less than $1.3 million under Benczkowski’s spending plan.

According to a press release announcing the tentative budget, the supervisor commissioned a Citizens Budget Advisory Committee to analyze the budget, and that group made several recommendations for 2019, including a 15 percent reduction across the board in overtime, part-time payroll and purchases.

While many department heads were able to cut the 15 percent figure in all these areas, some department heads were creative and found savings in other ways.

In addition to the recommended expense reductions, Benczkowski included the following recommendations from the Budget Advisory Committee: putting a hold or reduction on equipment and supply purchases; leasing vehicles instead of buying vehicles outright; reducing grass cutting and fertilization in parks and at town buildings during the summer; and eliminating snow plowing of town park parking lots, with the exception of Town Park and Stiglmeier Park.

“Difficult choices always have to be made during the budget process and I thank our department heads for listening to the recommendations of the Budget Advisory Committee,” said Benczkowski.

“We are constantly striving to find the perfect balance between providing the quality services our residents need, want and deserve with the realities of ever increasing costs. In the future, I will continue to seek new partnerships and collaborations to bolster the services we currently offer while reducing the burden on our taxpayers.”

No residential properties were re-assessed in 2018, and the tentative 2019 level of taxes is lower than tax bills levied in 2011. Vacant residential properties decreased from 545 to 304 since last year boosting the Town’s active tax roll. In addition, Cheektowaga has experienced steady commercial development in recent years with new builds or redevelopment adding to the tax base.

Benczkowski pointed to contractual obligations as the reason for increased expenses, including wage increases for all town unions per their bargaining unit contracts and state mandated minimum wage increases, which equate to more than $956,000 of additional appropriations. No wage increases are included for elected officials.

Other expense increases in the tentative plan include fuel prices, road salt, utilities and solid waste and recycling contracts. Benczkowski also highlights the Town’s aging infrastructure for increasing costs and the continuing need to reinvest in this infrastructure by repaving many streets each year, and improving storm drainage and the sanitary sewer system.

These programs create the need to borrow money for capital expenditures and pay those funds back in debt service payments. The Town is obligated to pay back an additional $150,000 for debt service in the 2019 budget.

Benczkowski said she felt it was important to add additional funding for safety and security cameras throughout the town and included an increase to the credit to taxpayers in the Village of Depew to $500,000 for the cost of the town police department.

Copies of the supervisor’s tentative 2019 budget have been provided to members of the Town Board with initial discussions to be held in the coming weeks. A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, to present the tentative 2019 budget in more detail and receive input from residents. The tentative 2019 budget is available for review in the Town Clerk’s office or online at www.tocny.org.

email: bjackson@beenews.com

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