SALAMANCA - The city of Salamanca has adopted a spending plan for the fiscal year to start April 1, but not all in the courtroom for a public hearing were happy with that plan as passed last week.
The $7 million budget calls for raising $1,028,693 in taxes on residents, a 2 percent increase over the current budget. While the increase seems to be nominal, the city of Salamanca has a unique situation, when it comes to taxation. Because of treaties and compact with New York state, members of the Seneca Nation of Indians do not have to pay taxes on properties owned in the city. Over time, the amount of properties owned by Seneca members has grown to close to 70 percent in the city.
Some residents, especially those living on fixed incomes, have about all they can take in the increased taxes that fall on the same 30 percent of residents that have to shoulder the rest of the taxation burden. One such resident, Louise Hyson, spoke out against the levy increase.
"Why do we need to raise taxes this 2 percent?" Hyson asked Mayor Carmen Vecchiarella. "You (city officials) have been in papers, saying you are giving $45,000 to area organizations. If we have these funds, why do we need to give them anything? Pretend I am a stray cat. Take care of me."
The members of the City Council recently appropriated about $75,000 as donation accounts for various non-profit organizations that do work in the city. One such organization, and animal rescue group, to have stray cats taken care of, to include spay and neutering.
Hyson's concern over the 2 percent was not quelled a Vecchiarella said the 2 percent increase will allow for a rebate for taxpayers after casino revenues come to the city.
"You have to look at the big picture of the tax immune properties," Vecchiarella said. "We will get 2 percent on each of those properties that are tax exempt through the casino revenue. (Tax-exempt residents) are not paying the taxes in person, but someone is paying it."
Hyson, not satisfied with the need to wait a year to be reimbursed on the casino revenue side, said she and some of her friends aren't concerned with the timeframe.
"We don't care if it is going to be in a rebate next year. Some of us will not see next year," she said. "You have to look around and see the city. People are not moving in, other than those that are returning in old age. People are moving back to Salamanca to die."
The budget, according to Vecchiarella, was a joint effort on the part of all department heads, knowing what they need and what they needed more of, as well as some give and take on the part of the same people to keep the budget increase to a 2 percent level.