WEST SENECA, N.Y. (WIVB)- For three and a half hours, West Seneca residents packed into the auditorium at West Seneca West High School making it clear the budget is unacceptable with a 12 percent tax increase.
The crowd booed Supervisor Sheila Meegan and the two council members at a second public hearing. Residents applauded fellow neighbors demanding accountability from the council.
The 12 percent increase would mean people who have homes assessed at $60,000 would pay an additional $135 a year. According to the budget presentation, those tax dollars will be used to pay for new roads, the highway department, general fund debt services and the increasing cost of health insurance for town employees.
One residents spoke up calling the town “bloated”, arguing the town has more employees than other towns of a similar size and it’s costing taxpayers millions every year. He said reform is necessary.
The council said since the previous meeting two weeks ago, they’ve looked at ways to reduce the tax increase. Council Member Eugene Hart suggested closing a town pool for a year or two and stopping weekend leaf collection.
“It’s just another rob Peter to pay Paul instead of sitting down and actually facing, looking at the issues of where this money can come from instead of always saying let’s shorten the police department, let’s take away services from the taxpayers, let’s raise the taxes,” said Michelle Jeziorowski, a town resident. “There has to be other additional ways to bring funds into the town.”
Jeziorowski suggests increasing the cost of using West Seneca’s pool and ice rink for people who live out of town. Others called on the council to renegotiate the contracts for employees.
“A few items I wrote down that we can look at, absolutely,” said Supervisor Meegan “I think that’s the opportunity we take when we have budget hearings so the public has the opportunity to give their thoughts and where they see waste because they live in this town too and where we can turn around and change things that have been day to day practice.”
Supervisor Meegan told News 4 they’ve already found about one percent in savings in the past week.
Council Member Hart said he believes they can get the tax increase down to about eight percent.
They plan to take the suggestions from the public into consideration as they finalize the budget.
Not every resident is convinced their words were heard at the public hearings.
“I get the impression this is just a feel-good measure for West Seneca and they’re going to increase the taxes one way or another,” said Andrew Ciepiela, a town resident.
The final vote takes place at the town council meeting on Nov. 13.