Weekly Feature



2017-11-22 / Front Page

Tax rate remains same in Clarence despite neighboring increases

by ETHAN POWERS
Editor

The Town of Clarence’s 2018 budget appears to be a favorable one to taxpayers, and will likely be devoid of the criticism that has recently plagued the budgets of other WNY towns with similarly sized populations.

While the Cheektowaga Town Board approved a spending plan that will see a 2.09 percent increase in property taxes and while the West Seneca Town Board approved a 2018 budget that increases the tax levy by 8.61 percent, Clarence’s tax rate will remain the same in the new year at 94 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

“This Town Board, now for the last eight or 10 years, has not taken a raise,” said Town Supervisor Patrick Casilio, alluding to towns such as Orchard Park, Lancaster and Grand Island, all of which have voted to raise the base salary of their town supervisors in 2018.

Casilio added that Clarence residents will see their School Tax Relief, or STAR exemptions, remain in place, which he said is a three-part function of staying within the state-mandated tax cap. The tax cap, which has been in effect since 2012, puts restraints on the ability of local governments to raise taxes.

“It’s a three-part system. The town has to stay within the tax cap, the school district has to stay within the tax cap, and Erie County has to stay within the tax cap also. That’s how you get the maximum cash benefit from it,” he said.

The School Tax Relief exemption is funded by the state and provides a partial exemption from school taxes for most property owners, and is becoming among the state’s most used tax exemptions.

New in the town budget for 2018, noted Casilio, is extra help for the town’s code enforcement, which he says warrants new hires.

“We do receive a lot of complaints about people not following the law when it comes to property maintenance, so we have added a position for that to try and help out our Planning Department,” said Casilio.

Town boards throughout Western New York have endured a tumultuous budget season, as residents have called into question the appropriateness of hiring new town employees that may add to the tax rolls.

“You have to consider pensions, benefits, health insurance; so we really think long and hard before we add new positions to the budget, which I think helps us long term,” said Town Board member Peter DiCostanzo.

“We would rather pass a kidney stone than a motion that hires a new person,” he added.

While the highway fund’s tax rate is within a penny of the current year’s rate, Clarence Highway Superintendent Jamie Dussing pointed out that the town is accepting six new roads in 2018.

“We’ve accepted six roads, yet that highway tax rate has stayed the same for five years,” Dussing said, noting that while the Town of Clarence employs 35 within its Highway Department, other towns of similar size employ more than 100. “We continually take on more responsibility, but we’re doing it with the same amount of money.”

New roads being taken by the town in 2018 include Roberts Grove, Brianna Nook, Marguerites Way and Willyoungs Overlook, as well as Spaulding Green Parkway, Firefly Court, Herons Glen and Waterlefe Drive.

Casilio later added that the presence of the New York State Police and the Erie County Sheriff’s Station, both of which recently moved into the new Public Safety Building on a 20-year lease, helps keep the town’s tax rate low. Having a town police department, he said, would minimally add an annual $5 million to the town’s tax roll.

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