Town of Hamburg Budget Hearing

October 24, 2011 Updated Oct 24, 2011 at 11:30 PM EDT

By Lou Chilelli

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October 24, 2011 Updated Oct 24, 2011 at 11:30 PM EDT

TOWN OF HAMBURG, N.Y. (WKBW) -- Local towns are getting ready to decide what you will pay for services next year. Towns throughout New York State are hard at work making the final adjustments to their 2012 budgets. In the Town of Hamburg, the local fire departments were up first at this year's budget hearing. Each department requested a 2% or less increase in funding for 2012. Finding ways to cut costs can be tough.

"We had to trim. We are going with used radios that we got from other fire companies that had upgrades. Bail out systems...which we had to buy to buy brand new. There're 400 dollars a piece. Turn out gear costs about 12 to 15 hundred dollars now to outfit a firefighter completely...it's not cheap," explains Armor Volunteer Fire Chief Jeff Schmid.

"This has been, by far, the most difficult year. Between the pension increases and the state removing some of our revenue from us this past year. It's really been difficult," said Hamburg Town Supervisor Steven Walters. 2% is the key...Since New York State implemented a 2% tax cap on local entities. Assessment growth and retirement costs are exempt from the cap.

"It no longer looks as though Hamburg is able to afford what it has promised. It is digging itself into a hole ever deeper and this is eventually going to have to be addressed. If not now, when?" one resident questioned. The town has seen a 135% increase in the amount it must contribute to the state pension system.

"If the state pealed back the pension rates to 2008 levels...when they started these massive increases...that in and of itself...would allow a significant tax cut," Walters added.

Town of Hamburg residents will see an approximately two and a half percent tax increase if no changes are made to the budget proposal. Towns have until the third week of November to adopt a final budget and submit their tax rates to Erie County for inclusion in next year's tax bills.