Weekly Feature

2017-10-12 / Local News

Proposed 2018 budget sees 12 percent increase


West Seneca Supervisor Sheila Meegan has submitted a tentative budget for the town that includes a tax rate of $21.11 — an increase of 12 percent, or $2.26 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The total proposed budget for the 2018 General and Highway funds is $40.2 million, with $25.6 million to be raised by taxes.

Public hearings on the tentative budget will be held at 6 p.m. Mondays, Oct. 16 and Oct. 30, in Council Chambers at Town Hall, 1250 Union Road. The budget document is available in the Town Clerk’s Office and on the town’s website, westseneca.net.

The tentative budget has been submitted to the Town Board, citizens and taxpayers for review, consideration, resident input and potential adjustment prior to adoption by the board.

“I am pleased to present this tentative budget that maintains all services, provides for significant improvements to our infrastructure and heads the town in the appropriate direction for the future,” Meegan said in her budget transmittal letter. “This aspect was of vital importance to me when preparing this budget, as our working families are in need of tax relief.”

According to the supervisor, the budget process factors in services vital for the health and safety of residents, services that provide quality of life to residents, and the cost of such services and the ability of taxpayers to pay for the services.

The tentative budget was discussed with the council members, who attempted to incorporate their ideas, concerns and corrections, Meegan said.

“Since that time, we were able to adjust various accounts to achieve a budget that maintains all services, incorporates current and future needs of our residents, and works to maintain fiscal stability,” she said.

The supervisor said every budget is a challenge but this year’s was extremely difficult.

“The struggling economy continues to have a significant negative effect on the town’s financial situation,” she said. “Sales tax revenues and increases in the town’s assessed valuation continue to see only slight increases.”

Meegan said a persistent factor that has made recent budgets difficult is the increasing costs of employee salaries and benefits.

According to the supervisor, the current White Collar and Police Benevolent Association contracts include a 2.5 percent annual increase in salaries.

The necessary appropriations for employee benefits have increased $4.26 million from 2009 to the proposed 2018 budget.

“A significant component of those appropriations is the mandated contribution to the New York State and Local Employees Retirement System and to the Police and Fire Retirement System. This year’s budget includes an estimated payment of $1.38 million to ERS and $1.68 million to PFRS,” Meegan said.

For state retirements, 2018 appropriations decreased $60,000 in the general fund and $100,000 in the highway fund over the 2017 adopted budget, and there was no change for police retirements in the general fund.

Additionally, Meegan said appropriations for health insurance have increased by more than $2.5 million in the past decade.

Due to such challenges, Meegan said she feels the board has acted responsibly and looked for a long-term benefit for the community.

“We continue to regard the budget as a blueprint for the town’s financial future. The annual budget is just one part of a true long-term financial plan, which we believe will have real benefits to town residents for years to come,” the supervisor said.

The Town Board has implemented cost-saving measures in recent years and has planned fiscal practices wisely, Meegan said. Consolidation of departments and outsourcing services, actively monitoring overtime, watching revenues and expenses, and enforcement of a spending freeze have allowed the town to weather uncertain financial times, she said.

Significant changes and highlights in the tentative 2018 budget include:

• Additional debt service relating to necessary infrastructure improvements across town, namely sewer needs.

• More debt payments to fund borrowing for necessary improvement to town roadways, and renovations and construction for the Community Center and Library.

• Funding of reserves for major equipment purchases.

“All of the capital improvements that are required by a town with aging infrastructure, highways and buildings come by a cost,” Meegan said. “I am happy to present this budget that we believe provides for the health, safety and quality of life needs of our residents, while also controlling operating costs.”

email: jwaters@beenews.com

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