The Ilion village board’s $6.2 million tentative budget for 2013 - 2014 carries more than a 3 percent tax increase, but that’s a far cry from the double-digit increase the village board was looking at when it started work on the spending plan, according to Mayor John Stephens.
The budget will be the subject of a public hearing on April 10 at 6 p.m. at the Ilion Municipal Building. A regular village board meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m.
The $6,222,746 spending plan, which the board adopted last month, is up more than 2 percent from the $6,070,051 budget for 2012 - 2013. The tentative budget carries a tax rate increase greater than 3 percent for residents in the town of German Flatts and the town of Frankfort. The increase is 3.275 percent for German Flatts and 3.070 percent for the town of Frankfort. The budget appropriates $60,000 from the village’s fund balance and shows a $3,931,394 tax levy or amount to be raised by taxes. This is up more than 2 percent from the $3,851,392 l tax levy for the current fiscal year.
Stephens said the board had hoped to end up with a plan that raised taxes no more than 2 percent, but had voted earlier to override the 2 percent tax cap if necessary.
“We did have an increase in revenues, but our appropriations increased as well. It still costs more to do business without cutting services,” said Stephens.
Bringing the amount down to a little more than 3 percent is the result of “a phenomenal effort by department heads, employees and village board members,” according to Stephens.
The mayor said he approached the bargaining units for village employees and asked if they would be willing to make some concessions. Some agreed to forego pay raises for a year and others for a year and a half, depending on how their contracts read, he said. “Not taking a pay raise to some in the public may not sound like much, but it’s helped us immensely. That speaks highly to the dedication of the work force in the village,” said Stephens.
Whittling the budget down to size has meant saying no to some requests.
“We have a need of police vehicles,” said Stephens. “A couple are over 100,000 miles. That’s time to start putting them out of service and replace them. We just don’t have opportunity to do so right now. We certainly would have like to, but right now it’s just not feasible.”
Stephens said there were a number of requests for equipment and the village has been trying to modernize its equipment fleet, but the board and department heads had to differentiate between wants and needs. There are also problems with the village’s infrastructure, which Stephens says is “not in the best of shape.”
He said the board has been seeking funds through various grant programs to make improvements. “Now we’re applying for a grant so we can update the sewer lines,” he said. “We’re working diligently on everything. This current village board is very in tune to what the needs of the village are.”
Page 2 of 2 - The largest increases in expenditures came from unfunded mandates and pensions, retirement and health insurance costs, Stephens said.
“New York state has to be a little more diligent in their investments to help municipalities,” the mayor added. He said the state has approved some additional funding for villages and he has heard that Ilion will be receiving an additional $30,000 in funding from the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program.
Not all of the news coming from Albany has been helpful, however. Stephens said the governor’s program to amortize retirement costs over a number of years might help some cities, but will not help small municipalities.
When the state comptroller announced the state’s investments in the pension fund is up 3 percent going strong, he wonders why the additional funds are not passed on to local municipalities.
“I wish the county would give us back our share of the sales tax,” added Stephens, noting the $40-50,000 in revenue would be “pretty significant.”
He has also been in contact with state legislators about the possibility of charging a service fee for tax-exempt properties in the village. While these properties are tax exempt, they still receive the same services as taxable properties. “If we were allowed to charge a flat rate of, say, $500, that would be over $300,000 in revenue and that’s huge. That was the deficit I was looking at when we started,” said Stephens.
In the meantime, Stephens says there are things local municipalities can do to help themselves, including working together.
“Shared services is something everybody talks about, but nobody does anything about,” he said. “We can’t get everybody to the table to do it.”
For example, said Stephens, the village of Ilion needs a new Department of Public Works garage and he wondered if the villages of Mohawk and Frankfort could get together with Ilion to build a garage that would meet the needs of all three municipalities.
As for the 2013 - 2014 budget, Stephens said, “It is what it is. We’ve done the best job we can. I’m sure people have questions; that’s what the public hearing is for. We’ve done our due diligence.”
The tentative budgets for three other village departments are as follows: Light department, $5,483,560; water department, $1,392,295; and Ilion Free Public Library, $199,360.
Copies of the tentative budget are available at the village clerk’s office.