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Lancaster approves 2011 budget, Part III: Conclusion
By Lee Chowaniec
Nov 18, 2010, 09:29
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With the budget already approved by the Town Board, two more residents provided comments, as did a second Council Member during the closing public comment session of the regular meeting.

Resident Ralph Perry spoke on town employees receiving 3% wage increases over the past ten years, except for this year where they will get 2.75% in raises.

Additionally, they have been receiving longevity checks which averaged $1,000 each in last year’s budget. That was $148,000. Longevity was established years ago to honor years of service and experience. That may have been fine years ago when salaries were low for all government employees. Longevity has passed its time. When you get a 3% salary increase every year, couple in the longevity pay and then throw in free health insurance…

When you read today’s papers, most workers are faced with a 10-20% health insurance premium increases for the coming year. Our town employees pay nothing. When you add up the salary increase, the longevity pay and free health insurance, you are looking at 5%.

People read the papers never see anything about the longevity pay. And when you can get 5% a year in benefits that too much in today’s economy. Seniors did not get a cost of living raise last year, nor will they get one this coming year. Obama promised $250 and it disappeared like the ghost of Halloween. And seniors are getting less than 1% on savings interest. How are seniors supposed to pay the increase in property taxes?

The average guy is paying $300 more in health insurance and we are expected to pay for the free health insurance provided to town employees.

We could go into the expenses that we borne over the years on the police station, the library, etc. Correct me if I’m wrong but a year ago this past May an addition was going to put onto Town Hall that was going to cost $500,000. By October it was $1.5 million and by January it was $2 million. The excuse I hear is that we put in a new elevator, a new boiler, etc. I thought we needed a new addition.

Supervisor Giza interjected that as long as the contractors were on site they decided to make the other changes.

Perry shot back that now the town is going to redo the Walden Avenue Colecraft building for police for another $8 million. “All this while seniors are getting zilch and that’s not fair!”

Resident (?) Buszka also spoke of health insurance premiums going up 13%. "From here on it’s time for town employees to at least pick up the yearly increases." Buszka asked whether town employees pay co-pays on meds. He was told they do. He asked how much they paid and was told $5 for generics and up to $45 for others.

Buszka asked what the town got back from the unions in the recent contract negotiations. He was told by Supervisor Giza that the town tries to negotiate with the unions where everyone comes out with a little bit. “Sometimes we win and sometimes they win,” declared Giza. “We try to do our best. We just don’t give the store away.”

When Buszka asked how many days town employees get off for sick days, Supervisor Giza responded that he did not know. Buszka interjected that they get a lot, that it costs taxpayers a lot and that there should be cut backs there. “You can find a lot of money there.”

Supervisor Giza interjected that he has not taken off one sick day in 29 years and I missed only one meeting in that time. “Don’t talk to me about that, talk to the guys. There are abusers, I won’t lie to you.“

Buszka then spoke on Elma decreasing its budget 2-3%. Supervisor Giza replied that Elma doesn’t provide anywhere near the services that the town provides. “They don’t have a police department, they don’t have garbage pickup service, and you can’t compare them to us. You are comparing apples to oranges. Elma has no town tax because they don’t have anything going on there. If someone is choking you, do you want a two minute response time or do you want a 20 minute response time? We can have police respond in 2-3 minutes, in Elma it’s 20 minutes.”

Councilman comments

Councilman Mark Aquino addressed Buszka and told him that about two-thirds of the budget is made up of employee personal service costs and their benefits. “So the good news is that next year union contract negotiations are going to take place. So we will have the ability to negotiate what’s fair with the unions and extract some of the costs. The contracts that were negotiated 4-5 years ago were probably a good deal at the time, but are not as good now.”

Aquino declared he would become involved in the union negotiations and work in the best interest of the taxpayers. Although the town has counsel, he would volunteer to be a member of the negotiating team.

As for the budget, Aquino said the board took a hard look at the budget and a lot was stripped from the tentative proposed budget. “I am not happy with everything in it, but overall it’s decent.” He stated that people have to realize that some things are guaranteed in the union contracts and are difficult to get out.

Comment

So, the only way to determine the effect this budget will have on your tax liability (because of reval) is to multiply your new assessment by 8.11 (dollars per thousand dollars of assessment) and add $155.63 for refuse and water services.

If you are a Town of Lancaster resident and your assessment is $100,000, you will pay 8.11 X 100 = $811 + 155.63 = $966.63.

I do not have village tax rates.

The media is constantly publishing articles on how deficits and spending practices have to be addressed in all government agencies. New York State is considering placing a 2-4% cap on spending. Lancaster’s budget spending goes up by 5.4% and there is no general outrage. What is it about or town, are we that affluent, that apathetic or conditioned to accept the status quo without a whimper?

Budget spending has increased by $5.15 million since 2006, from $24.54 million to $29.69 million, a 21.0% increase; an annual average increase of 4.2%. Supervisor Giza is spot on when he says we will have a difficult time meeting a 2-4% tax cap.

Good luck to those taxpayers that have not been receiving 4% annual salary increases. Considering the lack of outrage that took place on the town’s spending, it appears the great majority are willing to do with less to maintain the status quo.

Supervisor Giza declared that had the town not come up with this budget the town would not have been able to accomplish what it did. Salary increases for everyone, free health insurance for all town employees, longevity pay for all town employees, stipends and perks oh my.

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