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Boston supervisor calls the town’s 2013 budget ‘another home run’

BOSTON — The majority of the Boston Town Board met for a work session to go over the 2013 budget on Monday, Oct. 22, but those in attendance at the adjournment of the gathering said they agreed that the town is heading down the right track. Only Councilman Gary Vara was absent from the work session.

After two years of lowering taxes, Supervisor Martin Ballowe announced that there would be another slight decrease in taxes, as Boston entered the new year. “I think we did a great budget this year,” Ballowe said. “Actually, there’s a slight decrease in taxes. It’s slight, but it’s still a decrease. It’s better than it going up, like in other towns.”

He continued, “The town is solid, because we didn’t cut any services; we’ve given better services.” Ballowe said that the town’s parks have been improved, Boston now has a new recreation center and soccer center and has better athletic fields.

“I think it’s a solid, solid budget and I think it’s another home run, when you can cut taxes two years – third year, slight decrease – and then we’ll look at next year,” he said. “There’s numbers ... in here that we could look at, saving taxpayers money next year, and see how it plays for 2013 – 2014. But, there will be no tax increase. We have reserves in the highway [and] reserves in parks.”

Ballowe continued, “When you can come into unemployment, people losing jobs, period – we’re not a booming city – and you look at it and say, ‘Decrease is a decrease, no matter what way you write it – and you’re not cutting services to anybody.’ You’re giving everybody in the town what they want. I think it’s a home run.”

The board also discussed the use of money in a contingency fund, as opposed to lowering taxes further, determining that the best use of those resources would be in case of unexpected costs. “I like putting [money] away for a rainy day,” the supervisor said.

“I like cutting taxes and, if we’re able to give some back to people, absolutely. But I don’t want to give [the taxpayers] one year and then go the next year and ask them for money. I just don’t want to do that. I think people struggle enough.”

Ballowe said he spoke with a representative from Erie County Water and Erosion, which has five more projects that must be completed, this year. “So, he’s got five more areas that you’re going to hit that we’re going to have to put in for,” Ballowe said. “We’re going to have to put something monetary into it – possibly six.”

The supervisor called putting funds in contingency for 2012 “a perfect opportunity with the money we saved by not overspending, to take that money that was left, put it to the side, designative for that, and use it. That way you don’t ask people for it. We already did our due diligence, of saving that money.”

The board members also spoke about the school tax collection fee, something Councilman Jeff Genzel said he “just can’t do. I really feel the Orchard Park School District is getting kind of short-ended on it, because I’m paying a portion of my assessed value, and, honestly, I just think it should have been negotiated as a lump sum, just like Hamburg.”

Ballowe said, “This is only a one-year contract. They might not give it to use, for next year, but we still have to budget it. Hamburg and Orchard Park might not give us the tax collection fees, but we still have to budget for it. If they don’t give it to us to do ... then it’s just a zero. It goes back into [Town Clerk Jennifer Mule’s] fund, but we still have to budget for it.”

Genzel reiterated that he did not believe the town should have to budget for this item. “I think we should tell the school districts it’s their problem, to collect their own school taxes,” he said. “This is a convenience that’s been brought about years ago, for a money-grab. I don’t think we should approve this. I’m looking for it to not be the town’s responsibility to collect school taxes.”

Ballowe explained, “They’re just going to give it to somebody else. Somebody’s going to have to collect it. Somebody’s going to have to get paid, period.” In order for the board to change this practice, negotiations would have to be made with Mule’ in 2013.

“Town minutes haven’t gotten out on time; the whole staff has been occupied with working on school taxes,” Genzel pointed out. “And so, the actual job ‘town clerk’ falls by the wayside. I just don’t think it’s the town’s job to collect school taxes and to give an employee $7,500 to do it,” a figure Genzel referred to as “outrageous.”

“[Mule’] has to budget it, and it will get offset by what’s collected from the school,” Ballowe told Genzel. “If she doesn’t collect it, we still have that money in our budget somewhere. So what we [would] do is, OK, we’re not going to collect it anymore. We’re going to take that money in 2013 and in 2014 we’re going to give it right back to the citizens, because we didn’t need it.

“We can discuss that with her, but we still have to budget for it.”

The board will hold a public hearing on its proposed budget on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7:40 p.m. That hearing will be held during the board’s bimonthly meeting at the Boston Town Hall, located at 8500 Boston State Road in Boston.

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