Niagara Gazette

Local News

November 7, 2013

Lewiston officials hope reserves will stave off townwide tax as budget work continues

Niagara Gazette — The Lewiston Town Board is one step closer to approving its 2014 budget.

Following its mandatory public hearing Thursday, the board announced it will hold a follow-up work session on the spending plan at 3 p.m. Tuesday, where the budget will likely be finalized for adoption.

"The employees all got a 3 percent increase in their wages," finance director Michael Johnson said. "The insurance is up, the state retirement system's up. With the exception of the council and the supervisor's salary, everyone was at a 3 percent raise."

As it stands currently, the plan calls for the town to spend about $17.2 million total next year, with $11.4 million of that figure dedicated to the town's four major funds, which are the general fund, the town outside the village, the highway and drainage departments and the water pollution control center.

Paying for these expenses, though, will require the town pulling more and more money from its savings accounts, as revenues are not projected to meet expenses in three of the four major spending categories.

The townwide budget, or "A" fund, is expected to use $200,000 from its reserves to cover a $3.4 million expense. The area outside the village will see $378,000 spent in savings to supplement its $3.3 million budget. The highway fund similarly wouldn't cover its $2.7 million in expenses, though it's much closer, only using $68,000 in reserves.

Only the water pollution center's budget line balances expected revenues with expenses.

The idea, Johnson said, is to avoid charging a townwide tax, which the board has strived to avoid despite Johnson occasionally saying in public the last three years — since the state implemented its property tax cap law — the town may need to consider it despite its unpopularity.

Instead, this time, he said the town needs to consider "new" revenues.

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