By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
TOWN OF TONAWANDA — The town board passed the 2013 preliminary budget at Tuesday’s public hearing and for the first time in 13 years, taxes will decrease for town residents.
The taxes will be reduced by a tenth of a percent from 2012, or about a penny a day — from $3.27 per day for the average household in 2012 to $3.26 in 2013.
In sum, the average homeowner whose home is assessed at $50,000 will pay $1,191.33 in 2013.
Supervisor Anthony Caruana’s original budget, delivered in early October, had taxes increasing to about $3.32 per day. But after board members reviewed the items line by line at two work sessions, almost $1 million was cut from the budget.
The cuts came from personal services and related fringe benefits and special districts, including the budgets for animal control, garbage, sewer stations and about 94 other areas collectively totaling $900,141.
Another $83,027 was taken from water acquisition and storage district revenues.
In total, spending will be cut by 3.6 percent in 2013.
Councilman Joseph Emminger said the cuts don’t include any layoffs, and he said he wouldn’t classify the extra spending in the original budget as “fat.”
“It was just a little here, a little there,” he said.
Emminger was proud of the cuts the board was able to make while keeping the fund balance at $19 million — well within the state’s recommendation.
The fund balance helps the town maintain a high bond rating, as well as account for costs in 2013 before property taxes begin to come in on Feb. 15.
In 2013, the budget’s most significant increase in spending is due to additional costs for hospital and medical insurance for employees and retirees — an expected increase of $1 million.
Since 2007, those costs have almost doubled.
Retirement costs will also increase by $800,000 from 2012 — up from $3,769,226 in 2008.
Another challenge came as a result with the settlement with NRG Huntley, now operating under a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement instead of real property taxes.
The reclassification reduces the 2013 tax levy by $2,133,300.
The cost for street repair, building and plumbing, police and postage, telephone and other miscellaneous items went up. Most of those increases are due to the price of gas, among other causes.
There are no salary increases scheduled for any employees, according to Caruana.
Appropriations for the 2013 budget total $95,461.244.60, with revenues totaling $43,181,579, taxes at $44,079,635.60 and appropriated fund balance at $8,200,000.
With a lack of significant increases or issues to discuss, no residents spoke at the public meeting.
Two hearings were also scheduled for the Oct. 19 meeting. Clubs ‘N Such will be requesting permission to add 1,477 square feet at the Paddock Chevrolet Golf Dome and another will be held on the town’s potential agreement with Sim Zone.
Sim Zone would operate computer simulated golf and spot experiences at the dome, and the agreement would last for five years with two automatic five year renewal terms.
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.