Tonawanda News

Local News

November 16, 2012

Proposed county budget would force tax hike


Tonawanda News — Even after job cuts, the county's employee pension contribution tab will rise by $1.3 million, or 10 percent, to $14.1 million. The state is charging municipalities an average 21 percent of employees' salaries, up from an average 19 percent this year, Huntington said.

The tentative budget shows no across-the-board salary increases for employees, and anticipates a less-than-1 percent increase in health insurance costs, to $26.2 million, for active and retired employees. The collective bargaining agreements of six unions, representing more than 1,200 county workers, expired last year.

While the budget demands a tax increase in the general fund, two of three special district tax levies would be cut: the water tax levy by 2.5 percent and the refuse tax levy by 10.5 percent. The sewer levy would increase by 1 percent.

Of the refuse levy, Huntington said he cut $90,000 in spending requested by currently suspended refuse district Director RIchard Pope, by bringing line item projections closer to what the district actually spent in 2009 through 2011.

On the revenue side of the budget, Huntington is projecting a 4 percent bump in sales tax receipts next year, to $61 million. He attributes the estimate to "normal" growth, fueled in large part by Canadian shoppers. As of October 2012, year-to-date receipts were about 4 percent higher than in January through October 2011, he said.

The budget also calls for using $11.4 million in county fund balances as revenue. The general fund balance, currently $27.3 million, would be drawn down by $9.4 million.

Other budget highlights include:

• A $10,000 allocation for the Niagara County Historical Society, "raised" by cutting funding for five other outside agencies — Cornell Cooperative Extension, NIOGA Library, Niagara Community Action Program Inc., the Niagara County Soil & Water District and Mercy Flight — by 1 percent of each of their 2012 grants. Glatz said NCHS asked for a funding line and the budget office was agreeable. "I think we're trying to be Niagara County-wide sensitive to those things that affect the county," he said.

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