MEDINA – The Village Board approved a new budget on Monday that will the raise tax rate 4 percent or 63 cents per $1,000 of assessed property, a $4.7 million spending plan that drew criticism from two former village officials.
“Little by little the tax rate can be reduced but you have to have the guts to do the little things,” Marcia Tuohey, a former mayor, told the Village Board during a public hearing on Monday.
The board cut $125,000 from the tax levy from the previous week, to narrow the tax increase from about 9.5 to 4.2 percent. Those cuts included $40,000 each in the police and fire departments, $10,000 from the Department of Public Works and $5,000 for code enforcement. Medina also is taking $30,000 more from a reserve account.
Tuohey suggested more cuts, including less overtime for an officer assigned to the Orleans County Major Felony Crimes Task Force, reductions in the tree budget, no raise for the mayor and taking more money from a contingency fund.
The board agreed to cut $5,000 from the tree budget, which still leaves $5,000 for trees with $4,000 coming from community donations and outside sources.
The Village Board proposed a $3,000 raise for the Mayor Andrew Meier, from $6,000 to $9,000, with $1,000 each for the increase coming from water, sewer and general funds.
Tuohey and former Trustee Owen Toale said the timing of the raise is bad when Meier is asking for cuts in village departments.
“It’s called leadership by example,” Toale said.
Tuohey said the mayor’s raise is “unconscionable” when police and fire will be cut and taxes will go up.
Meier said the mayor’s pay hasn’t been changed in at least a decade, and pales compared to the neighboring town supervisors, who have far fewer employees to manage. He agreed to not take the raise if police and fire have to reduce employees to meet the budget numbers.
The $40,000 in cuts in the two departments haven’t been identified. Meier said department heads will be asked to find the reductions.
Trustee Mark Irwin defended the pay increase for the mayor.
“Nine thousand dollars is frankly ridiculously low compensation,” Irwin said. “It should be more.”
Meier said the village needs to take a long-view in the budget, and that’s why he didn’t support taking more money from contingency. He said Medina needs more revenue from a county sales tax sharing formula. The village’s share hasn’t increased in more than a decade.
The village also needs to keep pressing for relief from town taxes, where village residents pay for some services they do not receive, Meier said. He has asked the towns of Shelby and Ridgeway to exempt the village from road maintenance and plowing taxes because the village already pays for that in village taxes.
Resident Mike Sidari told the board Medina should seek contributions for its ambulance service from the western Orleans municipalities that use the service. The revenue for the ambulance is down about $45,000 from budget for 2012-13. Sidari said the neighboring towns should give something to help make up for the gap.
“I’m with you in principle,” Meier said. “We bear the cost solely and they get it for free.”
The village is getting some relief from a neighboring municipality. Medina provides a police officer as a school resource officer to Medina Central School. The school district is increasing its share of the officer’s pay and benefits from $50,000 to $60,000. That covers about 65 percent of the officer’s total costs, and reflects about how much time the officer devotes to working at the school.
Meier said the county should increase its contribution to the officer assigned to the task force. The county pays $50,000 towards a total cost of about $115,000.
Tuohey, a former County Legislature chairwoman, urged the Village Board to be “hard-nosed” in negotiating with other municipal leaders to ensure the village is getting its fair share.
Meier said the village faces a difficult financial picture with falling tax assessments and rising costs. The total assessed value fell $658,131 to $165.5 million in 2013-14. The village’s overall budget decreased $35,000 to $4,688,975. The amount of money to be collected in taxes is up 3.6 percent or $94,469 to $2,722,442. That is resulting in a tax rate increase from $15.82 to $16.45.