Despite Qualms, Busti Board Approves Budget

BUSTI — The Busti Town Board voted recently to raise property taxes in an attempt to keep its fund balance healthy.

The board passed its 2018 budget by a vote of 4 to 1. The adoption results in a 3.9 percent increase in property taxes for residents in the town, and a 5.6 percent increase in property tax for part-town residents.

The final budget is about $50,000 more than the preliminary budget including in its total spending plan. Health insurance costs for employees is $12,000 less than what was in the preliminary budget. Board members also decided to implement a 10-year plan to track what expenses are increasing and what the tax rate needs to be over time.

Supervisor Jesse Robbins advocated strongly for marginally increasing taxes, going above the state mandated tax cap. Councilmen Jim Andrews, Todd Hanson and Ken Lawton also voted yes for the budget. Robbins said that too much of the fund balance is burned up as a result of the board staying under the 2 percent tax cap.

The fund balance is taxpayers’ money that is held as a safety amount and used for emergencies or significant circumstances.

Robbins said the town has stayed under the tax cap over the last couple of years and used a significant amount of money from the fund balance for various town projects.

“If we use that much this year we’re being careless and not paying attention,” Robbins said.

Robbins said the main concern behind raising taxes is to provide services for the people. He said the second worry should be the fund balance and the third worry should be the tax cap.

“The tax increase is about taking care of services that people want,” Robbins said.

On the other hand, Councilman Rudy Mueller said he firmly believes the board didn’t need to go over the tax cap and could have safely increased expected sales tax revenues in the budget to offset the $50,000.

“The taxpayers can’t afford to keep having their taxes raised,” Mueller said. “I don’t think the public realizes what’s happening.”

Mueller pointed out that the board could have also used contingency funds to offset the money. He said the reserves are stronger than last year at this time.

“The reserves are healthy, yet we’re still raising taxes,” Mueller said. “We have a healthy reserve and didn’t need to use a lot. We shouldn’t have gone over the cap.”

In addition to deciding on the budget, the board also made decisions to provide funding for Chautauqua Lake and Lakewood’s libraries.

Jim Wehrfritz, vice president of the Chautauqua Lake Partnership, told the board the group’s plans for next year. That included where the group plans to apply herbicides and implement remediation and shoreline cleanup in Chautauqua Lake.

Wehrfritz stressed the importance of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, which is required by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for further herbicide permitting.

“We want herbicides added to the toolkit for managing weeds in the lake,” Wehrfritz said. “Right now that’s impossible and none of the other lake organizations are working toward that. We’re the only ones that have it in our plan and we’re going to see it through.”

The board approved the $10,000 request by the CLP.

Our residents who are paying taxes expect their tax money to go toward lake maintenance,” Lawton said. “I think it’s our responsibility to increase money for the lake.”