Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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December 19, 2012

County tax rate going up

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The Niagara County Legislature adopted a $322 million 2013 budget late Tuesday. The spending plan will drive a modest tax rate increase for most taxpayers.

Legislators’ last-minute changes to County Manager Jeffrey Glatz’s proposed budget resulted in a 2013 property tax levy of $73 million — $1.3 million more than this year’s levy but still within the state’s annual so-called tax cap.

Changes to Glatz’s proposal including the raising of anticipated non-property tax income lines by about $1 million, and reduction of projected outlays — such as contingency funding and overtime across departments — by $260,000.

The adopted budget drives an average county tax rate of $7.72 per $1,000 of assessed value, a 9-cent or 1.16 percent increase over the 2012 rate. According to Real Property Director John Shoemaker, rates for individual municipalities are:

Cambria, $7.73; Hartland, $7.74; Lewiston, $9.43; Lockport town, $7.75; Newfane, $8.05; Niagara, $13.16; Pendleton, $7.96; Porter, $8.14; Royalton, $7.89; Somerset, $7.73; Wheatfield, $11.22; Wilson, $8.40; Lockport city, $7.74; Niagara Falls, $8.43; and North Tonawanda, $8.03.

Thirty-eight budget amendments were pitched, 25 of them by the three-member Democratic minority caucus. Taken together, the amendments would have produced a 0-percent tax levy increase, by cutting spending and tweaking non-property tax revenues to the tune of $2.6 million, according to Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls. 

About half of the Democratic amendments were sunk by 3-12 votes against, including the minority’s annual call to eliminate three Republican-controlled patronage jobs/offices — the legislature’s clerk and public information officer, and the county auditor — for savings of $271,000 on salaries, fringe benefits and office costs. As each proposed cut was taken up, GOP legislators went to bat for PIO Chris Peck, Clerk MaryJo Tamburlin and Auditor James Sobczyk, pointedly praising each appointee’s contributions to county government.

Also rejected by the majority were amendments to restore six months of funding for two positions in the refuse district, a heavy equipment operator and an account clerk, whose posts are being eliminated on the prospect of the county closing its construction-and-demolition landfill next year; and the minority’s bid to restore a part-time post in the Office for the Aging so that three Niagara Falls-area senior congregate dining sites can stay open five days a week, instead of being reduced to three days a week, next year.

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