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Hamburg Village Board’s plans to override the tax levy are within New York state mandates

HAMBURG — Taking the lead during the village of Hamburg’s two public hearings on March 3, one about the override of the tax levy limit and one explaining this year’s budget, was Village Administrator Donald Witkowski, who outlined the village’s financial plans for the 2014 – 2015 fiscal year.

He explained that this year’s budget process again included a request to override the tax levy limit, which is something the state has said is within local municipalities’ rights.

“It is safer to ask for an override, even though we are not planning to go over,” Witkowski said, clarifying that this is not the first year the village of Hamburg has taken this tactic.

The village’s tentative budget, which was detailed in a previous article by The Sun, does not exceed the cap; the proposed law is merely a precautionary measure, Witkowski explained.

The village administrator said that, in making calculations for this fiscal year, the total amount of taxes levied last year was multiplied by the tax base growth factor, provided by the state. Any payments in lieu of taxes received in 2013 were added, and the result was multiplied by the allowable growth factor, which is 1.48 percent. Any PILOTS estimated to be received this year were subtracted, retirement exclusion estimated amounts were added, and the final amount was adjusted for cost/savings, due to the transfer of functions.

Capital expenses (such as investments in roads, waterlines, storm sewers and major equipment) and the cost of mandates (except for tort and partial pension exclusions) are not excluded from the tax cap.

Adjustments for “brick and mortar” development increases municipalities’ full taxable property, Witkowski said. This tax base growth factor is determined by New York State Tax and Finance, based on an already defined quantity change factor created by NYS. Hamburg has the second-highest growth factor among villages in the county.

Witkowski explained that the “law provides a partial exclusion for a local government’s NYS-mandated pension contributions, due to increases in the rate over 2 percentage points.” The village’s mandated contribution rose from $12,104 in 2001 to an estimated $640,430, this year.

Witkowski also walked the public through pension rates for the employee and police retirement systems, which have both seen large increases.

While explaining the reasons behind allowing an override to the tax levy limit, the village administrator said that there are many uncertainties in the calculations, which “are based on estimates that the state will not confirm, prior to submission.”

He said that local governments will sometimes be audited after the fact; those that are over the tax levy (inadvertent or not) must be placed in reserve.

“Because we’re close to the limit, and because of potential penalties if we were over, I’d like to ask for the tax levy increase,” Witkowski said. This decision will be acted upon, during the board’s next meeting.

Witkowski expressed appreciation to all of those who were involved in creating this year’s tentative budget. “Thanks to [them], it’s a smooth process,” he said. This year’s proposed village of Hamburg budget is $9,513,749, an increase of 2.2 percent from last year’s.

The village administrator gave a summary of the budget by category. Those numbers are currently available for public viewing at the clerk’s office in the village hall; more information about the tentative budget may be seen online at www.thesunnews.net.

Witkowski said that the village will “continue to reduce costs where we can.”

Village Mayor Thomas Moses thanked Witkowski and his staff members and the department heads for their work on the budget. “They really stayed on schedule,” he said. “I want to compliment you on a job well done. You gave us some really sound ground to go on, and I appreciate everything you do for the village.”

In other board news:
– The board discussed parking at the library, during the current renovation work. Moses said that current patrons must walk quite a distance to get to the library, and “some are not ambulatory.” He asked that the buildings and grounds crew work to help ensure the walkways around the library are fully cleared of snow.

– Fire Chief Tim Moses reported that all state-mandated repairs have been made, in his department. The crew’s air packs had a reported defect, and will be replaced by the company.

– The board approved a request from the Buffalo Bicycling Club to hold a road cycling event in the village from 1 – 7 p.m. on June 8. This approval is contingent upon submission of the proper insurance, the road closure permit and prior notification of individuals, businesses and churches along the race route. Approval must also be obtained from the police, fire and public works departments.

– Because of prior decisions, the board agreed to not allow a local citizen to host fitness classes in Memorial Park.

– Board Member Paul Gaughan reported that Imagine:Hamburg’s recent Winter Blast! fundraiser was very successful.

– The Staub Square merchants were authorized to host a “Market in the Square” event from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on April 12 on the outer brick walk area along the East Main Street section of their building. The businesses must provide a site plan and certificate of insurance naming the village as additional insured.

– Recreation and Parks Supervisor Josh Haeick reported that boys baseball registration has finished; he said that the numbers have increased, possibly because of the closure of Boston’s program. Boston residents may participate in Hamburg’s offering. “To ease the transition, we will play some games in Boston,” he clarified.

– The board approved the site plan application for 4229 Clark St. C2, for exterior renovations to Tillou Veterinary Hospital.

– The department of public works large trash pickup will be held March 17 – 21. A dropoff will be hosted at the DPW from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. on March 24 for electronics, batteries and tires only. The pickups in March, June and September will be done by Modern Disposal, at a rate of $132.50 per hour.

– The board approved the application for certificate of compliance for building design standards submitted by Steve Lingle of The Quilted Squirrel, located at 229 Lake St., for signage.

– Thomas Moses reminded the public about the village elections, scheduled for March 18. “Get out and vote,” he said. “Show your appreciate to the board by casting your ballot.”

– An application for certificate of compliance for building design standards submitted by Richard Ciraulo of Papaya Arts, located at 180 Buffalo St., for signage, was approved.

– Moses was authorized to sign an agreement between the village and the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce for a seasonal farmer’s market at 30 Buffalo St.

The Hamburg Village Board will hold a work session at 5:30 p.m. on March 17, followed by the regular meeting at 7.

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