CHEEKTOWAGA – Rising labor contract costs, health care premiums, and an aging infrastructure are forcing town officials to consider a hike in property taxes for 2018.
The proposed increase follows a year where property taxes remained flat. Next year, taxpayers could see an increase of 1.86% if the town board adopts Supervisor Diane Benczkowski’s tentative budget without any modifications. The overall total tax levy could increase by 2.91% from $65.9 million to $67.9 million.
An average home in the town assessed at $100,000 will see an increase of $29.83 to a total of $1,632.70 according to Ms. Benczkowski.
“Our town continues to go up against rising contractual costs, an aging infrastructure and rising health care costs, which is why it is necessary for everyone within town government to be working hard to ensure we are fiscally prudent with your taxpayer dollars,” said Ms. Benczkowski.
She says town board members and department heads are working to make that a reality while additional funding at the state level is lobbied for by Senator Tim Kennedy and Assemblymember Monica Wallace.
At last week’s town board meeting, Budget Director Stanley Kaznowski recommended a 5% cut in overtime or $108,370 and a 10.2% reduction in non-personnel expenses or $1,746,847. Ms. Benczkowski cut $750,000 in overtime and non-personnel expenses – $34,000 in overtime and $716,000 in non-personnel (non-contractual items) expenses.
Despite the cuts, the town faces an increase in spending because of continued compliance efforts with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s consent order to reduce sanitary sewer overflows, removal of dead and dying ash trees, and the high number of zombie properties throughout the town.
Ms. Benczkowski says other increases including wage increases for police contracts settled during 2017, state-mandated minimum wage increases of 7%, and premiums on health insurance increasing by 11.2% for 2018. The additional increases accounted for an additional $1.7 million of appropriations.
“The budget is a guide for our Town and in no way does it mean if it’s in the budget it has to be spent,” added Ms. Benczkowski. “Each and every purchase will continue to be scrutinized and reevaluated. I also continue to explore every funding source available to Cheektowaga to offset the burden of rising costs on our Town’s taxpayers.”