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Hamburg Town budget is a work in progress

A 2013 supervisor’s budget has been filed by Hamburg Town Supervisor Steven Walters, but when the final budget is finished, it is likely going to look a lot different.

“It is indeed what the department heads submitted,” Walters said.

The starting point is a $41.9 million spending plan that would include a tax hike of 4.89 percent for town residents outside the village and a 4.66 percent increase for village residents. But these numbers are not likely to remain the same throughout the process, as the final budget must be approved by Nov. 20.

According to Walters, he, along with Councilmembers Amy Ziegler and Joseph Collins, will work closer together in budget work sessions as they try to slash away at the budget and reduce those numbers.

Walters said the budget process was altered as a result of the board reducing the three members.

In past years, he said he could bounce ideas off other board members before presenting the ideas to the board. With only three members, two members cannot communicate about town matters without being in risk of violating the open meetings laws.

As a result, Walters believes the best course of action was to keep all department head requests in, and let that be where the board begins to slash in open work sessions.

Walters pointed to one factor in particular that is posing the most headaches in putting together the final town spending plan.

“The pension costs skyrocketing the way they are,” Walters said, noting that the cost has tripled to $3.6 million in the last five years. It was at $1.2 million in 2009.

“We have zero control over it,” Walters said, adding that those numbers already consume 20 percent of the tax bill.

“We’re immediately sending 10 percent of it to Albany,” said Walters.

In order for there to be changes in pension costs, Walters said it has to come from the State Comptroller’s office and so far, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has resisted change.

He said Hamburg is not alone with this problem. Several municipalities throughout Western New York are having similar issues.

“It’s devastating everywhere,” Walters said.

The supervisor said he does not have an exact figure he is aiming to cut.

“We need to review the budget and see what we may be able to cut,” Walters said.

He believes the board would be hard pressed to eliminate any positions, especially since there are already less employees heading into 2013 than there were in 2007.

“You come to a point where you can’t cut any more people,” Walters said. “The reality is, we’ve eliminated positions by attrition.”

He wants to try and “eliminate fat in government,” but added the town is already spending less than when he was first elected supervisor seven years ago.

As the process moves forward, he said it all keeps coming back to one thing: pension costs.

“It eclipses every other issue combined from a financial perspective,” Walters said. If not for the pension costs, the supervisor said taxes would be cut by 10 percent.

On a positive note, he is hopeful that come January, the state will restore funding at the Hamburg Casino to 2008 levels. Video gaming lottery revenue was cut more than 50 percent the last two years.

He is hopeful that with support of local state lawmakers, that revenue may return to Hamburg in 2013.

“I have had conversations with Sen. (Mark) Grisanti and Assemblyman (Sean) Ryan,” Walters said, adding that both have been supporters and pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to restore the funding.

The other big change in this year’s proposed budget is the creation of an enterprise fund for Woodlawn Beach State Park, the Ice Arena and Town Park.

Walters had originally sought an enterprise fund when the town took control of Woodlawn Beach in 2011, but the then four-person board was split and the proposal was defeated 2-2.

One of those who initially voted against it, Collins, said at the Sept. 24 town board meeting that he would now support the creation of the fund.

Walters believes this will make it easier to track revenues at the beach, as he was questioned several times by residents to provide updates on figures related to the beach.

“It’ll be much easier to do print outs as to what was spent,” Walters said.

The Hamburg Town Board will hold a budget meeting as part of its regular meeting, beginning at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22.

The board will hold a work session beginning at 6 p.m. prior to the regular meeting.

A 2013 supervisor’s budget has been filed by Hamburg Town Supervisor Steven Walters, but when the final budget is finished, it is likely going to look a lot different.

“It is indeed what the department heads submitted,” Walters said.

The starting point is a $41.9 million spending plan that would include a tax hike of 4.89 percent for town residents outside the village and a 4.66 percent increase for village residents. But these numbers are not likely to remain the same throughout the process, as the final budget must be approved by Nov. 20.

According to Walters, he, along with Councilmembers Amy Ziegler and Joseph Collins, will work closer together in budget work sessions as they try to slash away at the budget and reduce those numbers.

Walters said the budget process was altered as a result of the board reducing the three members.

In past years, he said he could bounce ideas off other board members before presenting the ideas to the board. With only three members, two members cannot communicate about town matters without being in risk of violating the open meetings laws.

As a result, Walters believes the best course of action was to keep all department head requests in, and let that be where the board begins to slash in open work sessions.

Walters pointed to one factor in particular that is posing the most headaches in putting together the final town spending plan.

“The pension costs skyrocketing the way they are,” Walters said, noting that the cost has tripled to $3.6 million in the last five years. It was at $1.2 million in 2009.

“We have zero control over it,” Walters said, adding that those numbers already consume 20 percent of the tax bill.

“We’re immediately sending 10 percent of it to Albany,” said Walters.

In order for there to be changes in pension costs, Walters said it has to come from the State Comptroller’s office and so far, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has resisted change.

He said Hamburg is not alone with this problem. Several municipalities throughout Western New York are having similar issues.

“It’s devastating everywhere,” Walters said.

The supervisor said he does not have an exact figure he is aiming to cut.

“We need to review the budget and see what we may be able to cut,” Walters said.

He believes the board would be hard pressed to eliminate any positions, especially since there are already less employees heading into 2013 than there were in 2007.

“You come to a point where you can’t cut any more people,” Walters said. “The reality is, we’ve eliminated positions by attrition.”

He wants to try and “eliminate fat in government,” but added the town is already spending less than when he was first elected supervisor seven years ago.

As the process moves forward, he said it all keeps coming back to one thing: pension costs.

“It eclipses every other issue combined from a financial perspective,” Walters said. If not for the pension costs, the supervisor said taxes would be cut by 10 percent.

On a positive note, he is hopeful that come January, the state will restore funding at the Hamburg Casino to 2008 levels. Video gaming lottery revenue was cut more than 50 percent the last two years.

He is hopeful that with support of local state lawmakers, that revenue may return to Hamburg in 2013.

“I have had conversations with Sen. (Mark) Grisanti and Assemblyman (Sean) Ryan,” Walters said, adding that both have been supporters and pushing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to restore the funding.

The other big change in this year’s proposed budget is the creation of an enterprise fund for Woodlawn Beach State Park, the Ice Arena and Town Park.

Walters had originally sought an enterprise fund when the town took control of Woodlawn Beach in 2011, but the then four-person board was split and the proposal was defeated 2-2.

One of those who initially voted against it, Collins, said at the Sept. 24 town board meeting that he would now support the creation of the fund.

Walters believes this will make it easier to track revenues at the beach, as he was questioned several times by residents to provide updates on figures related to the beach.

“It’ll be much easier to do print outs as to what was spent,” Walters said.

The Hamburg Town Board will hold a budget meeting as part of its regular meeting, beginning at 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 22.

The board will hold a work session beginning at 6 p.m. prior to the regular meeting.


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