By Harold McNeil | News Staff Reporter
Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein has yet to release his tentative spending plan for 2017, but he’s vowing that the budget will not include almost $100,000 in pay raises for elected officials that the Town Board approved earlier this month.
His budgetary maneuver is unlikely to derail the raises.
The Town Board is expected to restore the pay hikes once it starts amending the supervisor’s proposed budget, said Deputy Supervisor Steven D. Sanders.
“It’s our job to look at the budget when it comes out and respond accordingly,” he said.
But Weinstein said he expects his budget proposal will include a $1.7 million increase in the tax levy, representing the first tax increase for property owners in the town in six years.
“We promised we would not raise taxes for four years in 2009, and the tax levy actually went down for six years. Sadly it has come to an end,” Weinstein said.
The supervisor said it became necessary to raise taxes, in part, because the town’s most recent garbage collection contract with Modern Disposal went up by $780,000 a year, along with other operational cost increases. These also include a $1 million increase in liability and workers compensation costs and another $1 million increase in the town’s contribution to Social Security and New York State retirement for its workers. The proposed budget also contains 18 new positions at a cost of about $312,000.
Weinstein added that the resulting hike in the tax levy would bring it back up to the 2010 year level of about $73.5 million from the current levy of about $72 million. Offsetting the proposed tax levy increase is 1.5 percent rise in new construction in the town.
The Supervisor said there are still parts of the budget that he and Town Comptroller Darlene A. Carroll were continuing to work on. He anticipated that the full budget plan would be ready for release by Friday. He was adamant that it will not include the pay raises for elected officials that the Town Board directed him to include in a bipartisan 3-2 vote at the board’s Sept. 6 meeting.
At that meeting, Weinstein, a Republican, had proposed a two percent salary increase for the Town Clerk’s position, representing a $1,300 annual pay raise to $66,300 from $65,000. However, Sanders, also a Republican, introduced an amendment to Weinstein’s proposal that called for raising the salaries of all elected officials in the town, which directed that pay increases would be part of the preliminary budget proposal for 2017.
The Town Board agreed to increase council members’ salaries to $35,000 from the current $25,500 a year, while raising the supervisor’s annual salary to $105,000 from $75,000. Compensation for the highway superintendent is set to increase $3,000 a year to $100,000 from the current pay rate of $97,000.
Weinstein and Councilwoman Deborah Bruch Bucki, who ran on a platform of cutting Town Board members’ salaries by 10 percent, voted against the pay increases.
After Weinstein releases his budget proposal, the Town Board will have three opportunities to amend the plan to include salary increases for all elected officials in Amherst. The first opportunity to do that will occur at the Town Board’s Oct. 10 meeting, when a public hearing on the preliminary plan is also scheduled.
Sanders said he was not surprised by the supervisor’s plan to not include the salary increases in his tentative budget.
“I know that (Weinstein is) a very intelligent man and that he opposed it,” Sanders said of the raises. “So certainly if he can find an appropriate loophole that allows him to not include them, then I kind of expected that that’s what he would do. He’s got to do what he thinks is right.”