Cheektowaga services and programs could be cut to prevent large tax increases

CHEEKTOWAGA – Supervisor Diane Benczkowski’s Budget Advisory Committee is recommending a $2.4 million reduction in spending for the fiscal year of 2019 according to Budget Director Stan Kaznowski.

The reduction will hit three controllable categories not bound by union contracts – overtime, part-time payroll, and non-personal expenses.  These proposed cuts will offset a $2.9 million budget hit in 2019 as a result of increases from union contracts, payroll taxes, minimum wage, debt service, retirement costs, and healthcare. 

“These are costs that are going to hit the 2019 budget regardless of what we do,” Mr. Kaznowski told town board members at Tuesday night’s meeting.  “I’m just dealing with numbers folks.  This is what we estimate and this is what comes out at the bottom.”

Mandatory Cost Increases in 2019: Union Contracts $1 million; Healthcare $975,000; Debt Service $500,000; Retirement Costs $200,000; Minimum Wage $100,000; Payroll Tax $80,000.

“Right out of the box without doing anything, without offsetting the tax levy with a fund balance transfer or increased assessments – 4.3% is projected for the taxes to go up before we even start to do the budget,” added Mr. Kaznowski.

The committee is recommending a 15% reduction in overtime, a 15% reduction in part-time payroll expenses, and a 12.5% reduction to non-personal expenses.  These categories were “hit pretty hard” according to Mr. Kaznowski because the town cannot continue to tap into its fund balances to offset the tax levy.

“They’re not weak; they’re not super strong, they could be better.  We can’t continue to go through our fund balances to help offset the tax levy increase,” Mr. Kaznowski said.  

Recommendations to department heads to achieve the reductions include reducing recycling pickup to once a month and picking up yard and grass clippings every other week; make a shift towards leasing vehicles instead of buying them; not offering any town programs that require overtime; and canceling any town program that do not have enough revenue to cover it’s expenses.

“All of those are emotional issues,” Mr. Kaznowski added. “The fact of the matter is, it is getting tight and unless we want to sustain large tax increases over the next two to three years, we need to start tightening the budget.”

Ms. Benczkowski will now take these recommendations back to her office to create the 2019 budget which she will present to the town board in the fall.