by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — LEWISTON — The Town Board approved its $16.6 million spending plan for 2013 Monday evening.
What it refused to approve is overriding New York state's 2 percent tax cap for the second consecutive year.
"We started off in September with a $17.9 million budget request," Town Finance Director Michael Johnson said. "With the help of the board and the department heads, we were able to get it down to $16.6 million."
Though the board didn't vote to exceed the cap, the margin of error in Johnson's calculations is minimal. According to 2012 actual tax charges, the town levied $2,397,652 this current year. The cap, therefore would be set at $2,445,605 in 2013.
The town is charging, according to the adopted plan, $2,445,333, a difference of $272. And this figure is without a town-wide tax or highway tax, items many surrounding towns charge their residents, Johnson said.
The budget adopted Monday is slightly different than the one originally proposed in October. Slightly less that $100,000 has been added to the spending after the town received actual bills for some of the services officials had been estimating until Monday.
Johnson said the town will be paying less than they'd anticipated in state retirement costs, while worker's compensation – originally estimated to be a $350,000 charge – will be more.
Other changes, according to Johnson, include reducing the master sewer's tax rate from $105 this year to $35 in 2013, reducing the town's insurance premium and experiencing higher-than-expected sales tax figures for 2012.
But not everything is rosy in the town, he warned.
"The next three to five years are going to be a different story," Johnson said. "The board is already out looking for other revenues. And this budget is based on getting a bond to allow for road construction we've promised the highway superintendent. We'll be starting to look at that in January."
But the efforts to keep the town below the tax cap was applauded Monday by many of the town's five-member board.
"I'm thankful we're one of the few entities not voting to exceed the 2 percent cap," he said while thanking Johnson and his staff for the hard work preparing the budget.
In other board news, the town will hold a public hearing concerning its proposed zoning changes beginning at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Town Hall, 1375 Ridge Road, Lewiston.
The public hearing is expected to put the finishing touches on the changes to the town's master plan, including the change of many properties in the Sanborn area to a hybrid zoning called Traditional Neighborhood Design, according to Supervisor Steve Reiter.
Reiter said the changes have largely gone unquestioned throughout a long process which has featured a previous public hearing and two open meetings with Sanborn residents about the changes. And whatever issues had been expressed have been worked out already, Reiter said.
"I think it's going to be adopted (next week)," Reiter said. "We've gotten no responses, received no complaints about it, even in Sanborn. Nobody seems to be upset."
Finally, the town is sponsoring a donation center to benefit those displaced or otherwise affected by Hurricane Sandy in the New York City area.
Town Hall will serve as a drop-off site through Nov. 27, after which whatever is donated will be sent to a shelter in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
"This is to help offset some of the problems people have been having from Hurricane Sandy," Reiter said. "Please consider donating."