Albion village officials worry about dire budget scenario

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 November 2014 at 12:00 am

ALBION – Albion Village Board members are sounding an alarm about the village’s financial picture. The village’s reserves are down to $226,000 after the board applied $300,000 to the 2014-15 budget.

The village shouldn’t take more from its reserves so it has a cushion in case of an emergency expense, Trustee Eileen Banker said.

Without $300,000 to use from reserve funds the next budget, the village needs to cut expenses or find new revenues – or a combination of both – to stave off a big tax increase next spring.

The Village Board typically starts the budget process in January with the spending plan getting approved in late April. The village fiscal year runs from June 1 to May 31.

But the difficult financial situation is prompting an earlier start.

Village trustees met this morning and didn’t see any easy options for maintaining services and the tax rate.

“We’re at the 11th hour,” Trustee Banker told fellow board members.

The village’s 2014-15 budget totaled $6.5 million. The village takes in about $2.5 million in property taxes. The board trimmed the tax levy by $10,283 in the current budget. But the village’s overall taxable value dropped by $2.7 million. The loss in tax base resulted in the tax rate increasing from $16.86 to $17.48 per $1,000 of assessed property.

Trustees this morning spoke of the despair in trimming the tax levy, but still seeing the tax rate rise. The next budget the village won’t have a big reserve to use to help knock down taxes.

Trustee Pete Sidari would like to push for more state aid. He noted the disparity in aid compared to villages and cities, a sharp contrast highlighting several times by Orleans Hub. Banker, who works as chief of staff for Assemblyman Steve Hawley, said it could take years to get the state to address that disparity, which won’t help the village in the short-term.

She thinks Gov. Cuomo is depriving the villages of aid to force them to dissolve.

“He is trying to drive the villages out of business,” she said.

The village could also seek an increase in the county sales tax formula. The county has frozen the overall share to towns and villages at 2001 levels – $1,366,671 to be shared among four villages and 10 towns. The county keeps about $13 million in sales tax. (The four villages’ share has dropped with the towns getting more because of the falling assessments in the villages.)

Trustee Gary Katsanis wants to see the village pursue more sales tax and state aid, and also find ways to reduce the village costs.

“Everything should be on the table,” Sidari said.

However, he doesn’t want to reduce public safety.

Trustee Stan Farone said the unions should be brought to the table and employees should be willing to make concessions in benefits to help the village stave off a big tax increase.

Sidari bemoaned how many costs seemed to be passed down to villages from other governments. Those governments are largely leaving the village to provide many services – police, streets, cemetery, water and sewer – while providing little to no aid for the services.

“They need to see that we’re all in the same life boat, and if we sink, everybody could sink,” Sidari said.