Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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December 18, 2013

County budget draws ire for raises

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Despite angry protests from both inside and outside its chambers, the Niagara County Legislature approved a 2014 budget that lowers taxes for most municipalities, provides raises for most department heads and non-union workers, but leaves out raises for union workers.

The $333 million budget lowers the property tax levy by one-half of a percent or $378,000. That’ll lead to a a county tax rate of $7.62 per $1,000 of assessed land value in the City of Lockport, a 12-cent drop from 2013.

Similar 12 to 13 cent drops are expected for the Town of Lockport ($7.62), Cambria ($7.61), Hartland ($7.61), Somerset ($7.61) and Wilson ($8.27). Pendleton residents will see a four-cent drop with a rate of $7.92.

Taxes will be going up by 22 cents per $1,000 in Newfane and 38 cents in Royalton, as each will have rates of $8.27.

The budget cuts 13 positions and assumes a 4 percent increase in county sales tax collection, up to $64.5 million next year. The county would distribute $47.7 million to its towns and cities and treat the rest as county income.

“Even in light of rising mandated expenses, we managed to pass a responsible budget that eases the burden on county taxpayers while maintaining our fund balance,” said Legislature Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport.

But it was the lack of raises for union workers that dominated budget talk Tuesday. County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz and some department heads will received raises of more than 2 percent.

And for the third straight year, most union workers will not receive annual step increases in pay. 

The Democratic minority offered a series of budget amendments, all of which were defeated 11-3 along party lines. That included an amendment to give union workers raises.

Overall, the budget passed by the same margin. Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, said he was voting no not just because of the union raises, but because the tax decrease could have been greater.

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