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Lancaster approves 2011 budget
By Lee Chowaniec
Nov 16, 2010, 20:18
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The Lancaster Town Board unanimously approved the 2011 budget. With a spending increase of $1.53 million, the tax rate will be 8.11 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation, a decrease of eight cents per $100,000 of assessed value from the 2010 budget’s 8.19.

The decrease in tax rate can be attributed to the 2010 reassessment (reval) program where the town’s valuation increased $300 million from $2.32 billion to $2.62 billion and the board’s cutting $556,777 from the preliminary budget. Had the board not cut anything from the preliminary budget, the spending increase would have been $2.1 million and the tax rate would have been 8.28

Despite the $300 million valuation increase, the tax levy (amount to be raised by taxes) increased by $2.5 million, from $18.11 million to $20.65 million.

The following is what transpired at Monday evening’s meeting, presenting stated reasons for budget approval and comments by residents seeking further budget cuts.

Town Board work session

Supervisor Robert Giza advised the board that he was at an Association of Town’s meeting last week and one of the things that came up in resolution form was a tax cap. “There is going to be a tax cap,” he declared. “It is either going to be a two or 4% percent formula; 4% if it comes under Governor Patterson’s administration or 2% under Governor-elect Como. It will be immediate. It is good and not good. The only way you could override the policy is either through a super majority of the board, four of five on our Town Board, or through referendum by the residents. It will be very difficult to achieve the tax cap limit. If you would want to get 6% (spending increase) next year, it would be pretty difficult.”

Giza added that the Association of Towns was sort of against it because it was against Home Rule – where any government should decide their fate. “It should not be what the federal or state government says must be done. They figure the resolution will not be in until February, until Cuomo is in office.”

Referring to the 2011 budget, Supervisor Giza stated there is no way the town can continue providing the same services and cut taxes. “If you find a person that can do that on a regular basis, elect them. I eat, sleep and think this job and know where everything is going. If there is a way to find things cheaper and save money, I’m on board. I am in every organization that can save us money. I am Chairman of the LIDA. I don’t want to be Chairman but I want to make sure we get businesses in Lancaster that takes problems away from the homeowners.”

Giza referred again to the upcoming tax cap saying it would be difficult to accomplish next year what was being done this year. He voiced that as a taxpayer himself the cap was good in that it prevents run-a-way governments from taxing people to death.

He spoke on having only so such money to accommodate for increases in materials, gas, oil, projects, etc.; things the town has no control over. Referring to the board members he commended them for “stretching the dollar as far as it could be stretched.” He added that the board did cut over one half million dollars from the budget and “that’s a pretty good thing because with the reval it’s pretty hard to track and how individuals will be impacted by the budget.”

Giza then spoke on the suggestion by some residents to use more reserves. “The problem with that is that the big part of the revenues is a mystery to us. We don’t know how they will shake out.” He spoke on not having any idea on what the sales tax return would be the upcoming year knowing how the economy has been impacted. “We do know that we went up (the town) in population and that’s good because the formula used to determine our share of the sales tax receipt is based on population. And we went up in assessed valuation which is good. That will help the formula (that sales tax distribution is based on), but if the money is not there then the formula doesn’t mean a lot. We also know interest on savings is down. Those items could hit us hard.”

Town Board meeting

Supervisor Giza opened the regular meeting by reporting to the attendees that he gave the board members a lot of credit for making budget cuts to the proposed tentative budget. “They went over it (preliminary budget) and did some fine tuning. It is probably tighter than I would like it to be, but it is one we can work with. We cut over one-half million dollars from the budget, but again, one we will be able to work with.

As I mentioned in the works session, there will probably be a tax cap next year and it will make it even more difficult to operate when we run into some environments down the road. There are no new hires in the budget. There is a half person in the highway department to offset the needs of a requested full time position.”

Giza was reminded by Budget Director Dave Brown that a half person was hired in the Clerk’s office; a part timer made full time. Giza acknowledged the correction and stated that the highway department was given some seasonal (summer) help.

Next: Part: II: Resident input

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