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2013 town budget passes by 4 to 1 vote

BY: Jennifer Lysiak, Lancaster Editor | November 21, 2012

LANCASTER- Due to modifications agreed on by fellow council members, Lancaster Town Supervisor Dino Fudoli voted no to adopting the 2013 Town of Lancaster Final Budget during Monday night’s meeting.

In a 4 to 1 vote, the budget passed, which increases the amount to be raised in taxes by $19,327. Overall, the $30.7 million spending plan increases by 1.53 percent, which is mainly due to employee pension’s contributions and debt service.

One of the changes to the supervisor’s budget was adding a full-time position in the town clerk’s office versus hiring part-time workers.

Supervisor Fudoli said the town has the highest staffed clerk’s office in the county per resident.

“I did not just willy-nilly and just make cuts,” Fudoli said, afterward explaining he contacted other town supervisors and asked them for their staffing numbers and population figures, which he made his decision based on that.

Lancaster resident Lee Chowaniec said according to the preliminary budget the elimination of a clerk typist from the tax department would be a cost avoidance of $41,117 and filling the position with a part-time person would cost $19,000, a total savings of $22,117.

Chowaniec continued by saying the budget is adjusted to keep the clerk’s position full-time with the rationale that extra wages for vacation help would be cut by $5,000 and the keeping the full time position would only add another $17,117 to the budget; however, he believes it would cost more than that. 

“Since the town contributes 21 percent of full time town employee wage into the pension system that’s another $8,600 to fill a full-time position,” stated Chowaniec, adding that there are other stipends that need to be considered, such as longevity pay, and if this person will receive the family plan health coverage at a cost of $19,000, or an individual premium cost of $7,000.

“We could be looking at in my opinion anywhere from a $33,000 budget increase to $55,000 depending on individual family status and health insurance need,” said Chowaniec. “So, I would have to say that if the part-time individual fills the needs of the tax department, and you say it does, to reinstate a full-time person to the clerk’s office is fiscally irresponsible and indeed will cost the town much more than the $17,000 that is being shown in that budget or $19,000 claimed in the amended final budget.”

Resident Mike Fronczak questioned whose idea was it to make this change.

It was at that time Supervisor Fudoli told Fronczak to address questions to Lancaster Town Council Member Mark Aquino. 

Aquino said the majority of the board is in favor of hiring a full-time employee and explained that when the supervisor’s tentative budget was available to review, he looked at the proposed cuts and he went to the different departments that were effected and asked them to justify putting positions back that were removed

“I spoke with Ms. Coleman, [who is the town clerk] at length,” remarked Aquino. “I trust her judgment. She has been here for over 20 years and she runs a very efficient department.”She justified it and gave us an outline. Frankly, on a $30 million budget I think this position is warranted and I support it.”

It was at that time things became a little heated between Fudoli and Aquino as Fudoli stated, “I am finding out that we have more than double, actually almost triple the amount of staff per resident than any other clerk’s office in the county. So I thought my position was justified. My position on this board I believe is to look out for the taxpayer.”

Aquino responded by saying he was “a little sick” of Fudoli acting like he is the only person on the board looking out for the taxpayer.

Council Members Ronald Ruffino, John Abraham, and Donna Stempniak also supported the change and said they spoke to Coleman as well and it was justified to have the position filled with a full-time employee.

“I don’t want our taxpayers suffering from lack of services, because we don’t have enough staff there,” said Ruffino. “We have to put our trust in our department heads.”

During the meeting, Coleman said that over the last 10 to 12 years they did right-size the staff and also listed many duties the office carries out on a daily basis showing why a full-time person is needed.

“I am very frugal and some people call me cheap,” said Coleman. “I look at every dollar that is spent as though it was my money.”

Resident Thomas Kazmierczak questioned why two part-time people couldn’t just be hired.

Supervisor Fudoli said the budget was for two part-time people.

“So why don’t we do that? In case she needs more help in the future hire another part-time person and we would still save the money,” said Kazmierczak, adding he hopes the bickering among the council will stop.

The supervisor’s budget also cut funds provided to the Hull Family Home and Farmstead, which was reinstated by the board at a onetime cost of $2,000 and monies for the State Association of Towns annual conference, which was eliminated, was added back in.

Due to these changes, residents will now see the tax rate for a home assessed at $100,000 per $1,000 in the Town of Lancaster decrease by $16.49 compared to $17.49.

A home in the town outside the villages of Lancaster and Depew will see a decrease in their tax bill of $13.49 versus $14.49 and a home assessed at $100,000 in the Village of Depew will increase from $6 to $7.

The next Town of Lancaster Board meeting will be held at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 3, in the town hall, 21 Central Ave., Lancaster.

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