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Supervisor Mary F. Holtz Delivers State of the Town of Cheektowaga Address

Join The Buffalo News' Cheektowaga reporter TJ Pignataro at noon Thursday from the Millennium Hotel where Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Mary F. Holtz will hold her State of the Town address. Holtz is expected to detail some of the town's accomplishments during 2011 and her vision for the town's future. The address will be held during a membership luncheon for the Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce.

How Should West Seneca Use 200 Acres at the Former West Seneca Developmental Center Site?

Join The Buffalo News' West Seneca reporter, TJ Pignataro, who will report from the West Seneca Senior Center at 7 p.m. for this first of four workshops set up to provide information to residents about the future use of 200 acres of property at the site of the former West Seneca Developmental Center.

Live blog from Cheektowaga Town Board meeting

Join Buffalo News' Cheektowaga reporter TJ Pignataro who will conduct the first live blog from Cheektowaga Town Hall at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday. The Cheektowaga Town Board will begin by holding a pair of public hearings to get input about its 2012 Community Development Block Grant Program and proposed amendments to the town's parks ordinance. The public hearings will be followed by the town's regular board meeting.

One and done for Travers Murphy

   You can tell Mary Travers Murphy likes what she is doing as supervisor of Orchard Park. Constituent work is very similar to her former job as a consumer reporter for WKBW-TV.

   She wasn't unfamiliar with politics when she ran for supervisor in 2005. Her late  father-in-law was Democratic Assemblyman Matthew J. Murphy Jr., who represented the Lockport area for 18 years.

   And she doesn't seem like one to back away from a fight. But it's the political part of the job that made her decide not to run for re-election.

   "The thought of having to raise the tens of thousands of dollars necessary to respond to such dirty politicking, not to mention the time and energy that would distract me from my duties as supervisor, holds no appeal," she said.

   With voters crying out for change, is it more than the faces of those running for public office that need to change?

   --- Barbara O'Brien


Rink plan gets a grilling in Hamburg

  Ice is a hot topic in Hamburg.

   Nearly 100 residents turned out for a meeting about a proposed new rink on Wednesday, the first official look at an idea that has been discussed for more than a year.

   A partnership consisting of ex-Sabre star Dave Andreychuk and Hamburg resident Jeff Walker is the sole bidder. They propose to build a companion rink beside the town's current one at the old Nike Base recreation center on Lakeview Road.

   Taxpayers at the meeting didn't take it easy on the hockey star. Questions peppered the financing for the project, estimated to cost $8 million to $9 million, at least some of which would be backstopped by the town.

   Proponents call it a creative public-private partnership that fills a rapidly growing demand for ice time.

   Others say it's a bad idea for taxpayers to turn over public land --  plus financial backing
--  to a private venture.
   -- Fred O. Williams

Will Amherst follow Lancaster's lead?

   Because of a confluence of events, Amherst could choose to ask voters whether to cut two members from its Town Board this year.

   Amherst is one of the few remaining communities with a seven-member board. The Village of Lancaster will no longer have membership in that club, after residents last week voted to downsize.

   If Amherst wants to take action this year - with one board member not seeking re-election and another about to leave the board to be town clerk - the time could be right. But to do this year would require a costly special election.

   Still, the long-term savings would more than offset the cost of the election.

   Should the town start the downsizing wheels in motion?

  --- Bruce Andriatch

The downsizing votes are coming

   Registered voters living in the Town of West Seneca and the Village of Lancaster have something special in common this election season: They will all have the chance to choose whether to shrink the size of their respective local governing bodies and save themselves money.

   For the Village of Lancaster, a proposition cutting the Village Board - excluding the mayor - from six to four members will be on the ballot Election Day, Nov. 4.

   For West Seneca voters, a similar referendum will be conducted Nov. 17, reducing the Town Board from five to three members.

   In Lancaster, the referendum has not been a subject of vocal contention. Mayor William G. Cansdale Jr. and village trustees have gone along with the notion that reducing their numbers will ease the tax burden for their constituents.

   But in West Seneca, where regionalism advocate Kevin Gaughan has striven to make that town an example to other local municipalities, the move to downsize has been a struggle.

   Is downsizing government a no-brainer in these tough economic times? Do you think scheduling the West Seneca referendum on a day other than Election Day will make any difference in the outcome?

   --- Irene Liguori

Wishing upon STAR

A lot of homeowners in Western New York are making anxious trips to check the mailbox this month, looking for a STAR rebate check from the New York State. Read the story here.

   STAR is an acronym for the state's School Tax Relief Program, and any homeowner can apply. STAR rebate checks typically arrive in the summer months, not in the fall.

   But not this year.

   Though the state Department of Taxation and Finance notified homeowners that it would begin mailing checks Sept. 29, the change has thrown some financially strained residents, who were counting on the checks to help pay their school taxes this month.

   Recently, deadlines to apply for a STAR exemption have changed, too, from May 1 to March 1 for those who must apply annually for the program. Some people getting STAR do need to apply, others don't.

   Homeowners who get either Basic STAR or Enhanced STAR are confused by all these changes, say local tax assessors. And they say they have been swamped lately with phone calls from their residents needing help.

   Have you had any difficulties or been confused by changes in the STAR program?

    --- Irene Liguori

Serious questions about Amherst's budget

      Amherst Supervisor Satish Mohan has proposed a budget for next year that would keep spending flat and actually cut tax rates by 2 percent.

   Some praise the budget for eliminating 25 vacant positions and clamping down on unnecessary spending. But others say the budget overprojects revenues and underfunds some personnel spending lines.

   In particular, the town comptroller has said it's overly optimistic to expect sales tax revenue to hold steady and for mortgage tax revenue to fall by only 5 percent in light of the nationwide fiscal crisis and its long-term impact on the economy.

   Is Mohan promoting some tough love, as he has stated, by forcing town government to do with less when its residents are also making do with less? Or is he promoting a budget that artificially closes a revenue-spending gap?

  -- Sandra Tan

West Seneca downsizing heads to the courts

   Nothing comes easy here.

   After the Erie County Board of Elections invalidated petitions aimed at reducing the size of the West Seneca Town Board, the man who headed the petition drive saw it as politics as usual.

   "I think politicians' desperation is starting to show here," says Kevin Gaughan, who had hoped that West Seneca would become the poster child for reduced government.

   But Democratic Elections Commissioner Dennis Ward says because the petitions deal with such an unusual part of the law, there must be a strict interpretation of the statute. The petitions did not follow the law, and the measure cannot be put before voters this November, he said.

   There are two options available to petition supporters, according to Ward: challenge the issue in court, or solicit signatures on a new petition.

   Gaughan says he's not going to circulate new petitions. So that leaves Western New Yorkers to follow another court challenge.

  -- Barbara O'Brien

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