The Ilion village board voted 3-1 Wednesday to adopt a $6.2 million budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Trustee Barbara Collea cast the lone negative vote. Trustee Joanne Moore was absent.
The board acted on the $6,222,746 general fund budget during a regular meeting, which followed a public hearing on the tentative budget. The spending plan shows an increase of $152,695 over the current year’s budget.
The rising cost of health insurance, Workers’ Compensation and retirement system payments account for the largest increases, according to Mayor John Stephens, and these are costs that are out of the board’s hands.
“The governor hasn’t done much for villages on unfunded mandates,” he told the handful of people who assembled for the public hearing. “Tier 6 won’t help us at all until maybe 20 or 30 years down the road.”
Legislation changing retirement benefits provided by the New York State and Local Retirement System was signed into law March 16, 2012. Members who join the Employees’ Retirement System or the Police and Fire Retirement System on or after April 1, 2012, will be affected by these changes and will be in Tier 6.
The village budget for 2013-14 shows an increase of $55,000 or about 38 percent for employees’ retirement and nearly $199,000 or 33 percent for police and fire retirement.
“This is a state issue, not a local issue,” said Stephens.
The revenue side of the plan includes $60,000 from the village’s fund balance to help balance the budget.
The village also received concessions from several of the village’s bargaining units which agreed to forego pay raises for the upcoming fiscal year and, in case of public safety, until 2015. A vacancy in the police department will not be filled and a mechanic’s position will be eliminated from the department of public works.
The budget stays within the 2 percent tax levy cap, according to Stephens, who credited hard work on the part of village officials and the board and the fact that the village avoided increases in operating expenses except for contractual increases.
For the average homeowner, with a house valued at $70,000, the tax increase would amount to about $44 a year, Stephens said.
He also reported that the village’s bond rating had recently been raised from BAA1 to A3, an upgrade he called “significant.”
When asked if the board had a plan B if it ran into problems with the budget, Stephens said the budget has always come in with more than enough revenues to meet expenses. The board approves budget line item transfers if necessary.
“The entire budget’s a guess,” he said. “If something breaks down, if we need a new fire truck or a dump truck, we’re in trouble. We don’t have any wiggle room.”
Page 2 of 2 - He said he thinks shared services and consolidated services will be the way to go for local communities. Stephens noted that the village will have to build a new DPW garage and he sees this as something that could be a shared project with other local municipalities.
“I can’t understand why Frankfort and Mohawk won’t get on board,” he said. “I don’t care where it’s built. It could be a state-of-the-art facility.”
He has also been pushing for a change in state law that would allow the village to charge service fees to tax-exempt properties in order to generate additional revenue. About 32 percent of the property in the village is tax exempt, he said.
Questions were raised about an apparent discrepancy between a salary schedule and the line item shown in the police department budget. Village officials explained that the salary schedule included only base salaries while the budget line items for the department included budgeted overtime and other items that are part of the salary package.
Collea pointed out the budget summary sheet failed to list $6,098 from the restricted account for the sale of timber that had been included on the revenue side of the budget.
A question was also raised about legal fees. Stephens said the village has a contract with J.K. Hage and pays a flat rate for services.
When the budget was brought up for adoption, Trustee Collea asked if the village had written agreements with the bargaining units that had agreed to forego raises. Stephens said it did.
She also asked if the board could make additional changes. She was told any revisions would have to be made by resolution. The village must adopt a budget by May 1. If it does not, the tentative budget will be the budget for the year.
Collea asked what would happen if the bargaining units changed their minds about not the concessions. Stephens said a staff member would be eliminated from any department that did not agree to concessions.