Medina village could face big tax increase

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 April 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Medina village residents, including Ed Weider (left) and Dave Barhite, voice concerns about a sizable tax increase during a budget hearing on Monday.

MEDINA – Village property owners are looking at a sizable tax increase, barring some last-minute budget slashing or a boost in revenues for the village.

The Village Board on Monday presented a budget to the public that increases the tax rate by nearly $2 per $1,000 of assessed property.

The village tax rate is $16.44 in 2014-15, but would rise to $18.36, an 11.7 percent increase, in the proposed 2015-16 budget.

Village Board members and department heads say they have been working diligently on the budget all month and have already made many cuts. The board will meet this evening, Wednesday and Thursday to try to reduce the tax impact. Thursday is the deadline to approve a budget.

“Everybody sitting up here owns property in the village,” Village Trustee Mike Sidari said during a public hearing on Monday. “We don’t want to see our village taxes increase either, but some things have to be done.”

Village Board members say they are challenged to maintain services for the community without increasing taxes. The village’s overall tax base fell by $292,276, from $166,544,439 in 2014-15 to $166,252,163, giving the village less tax base to share the fiscal burden.

The shrinking tax base is a factor in the rising tax rate. The budget calls for increasing the tax levy by $315,319 to $3,052,921. The equipment budget would see a $173,907 increase with a new ambulance driving most of that.

The village also has put off some needed equipment upgrades, mainly a new ambulance. The Fire Department has four ambulances and Mayor Andrew Meier said the department should be on a cycle of replacing one a year.

The last new ambulance was in 2013. A new ambulance costs about $140,000. The village is carrying over $66,000 in a reserve fund to help pay for the new ambulance.

Village Board members said they have reached out to Shelby and Ridgeway to contribute to the ambulances. Those towns used to contribute $5,000 each annually to Rural Metro when it provided ambulance services in the community. But they haven’t contributed that money to Medina since its fire department became the primary ambulance provider for Western Orleans County in the past decade.

“We’re a very important piece of the pie for emergency services and they should help contribute,” David Barhite, a former village trustee, said during a public hearing.

He would like to see Yates contribute to the service, as well as Ridgeway and Shelby.

Mitchell Harmer, a local resident, said the towns shouldn’t be expected to pay. When Medina pitched the ambulance service to the community about a decade ago, it didn’t tell the towns it should pay towards the service.

“You wanted to be in the ambulance business,” Harmer said.

Village Trustee Owen Toale said he doesn’t understand why the towns gave money to Rural Metro, “for shoddy ambulance service,” but won’t give money to the village for the service.

Village officials are meeting with representatives from the two towns in renewed shared service discussions following a rejection of dissolution of the village in January.

Toale was elected last month on a campaign for cooperation over consolidation. He believes the coming months will show real progress with the towns helping the village taxpayers.

That won’t have much of an impact in the 2015-16 village budget, but village trustees are hopeful the effort with the two towns can make a difference for the village in the future.

The Village Board is looking for a boost in revenues, outside of raising property taxes. The board on April 13 approved a resolution for the County Legislature to change the formula for sharing local sales tax. The county keeps about 92 percent of the $15 million in sales tax locally.

But only about $400,000 of the total, less than 3 percent, is redirected to the villages. The county shares $1,366,671 of the $15 million with the 10 towns and four villages. That overall town and village share has been frozen since 2001.

Medina receives $159,586 in sales tax revenue. The county divvies up the village and town shares based on assessed values of each municipality. Because the village’s tax base is dropping and the towns are increasing, the villages are getting less in sales tax with the towns getting more.

Trustee Sidari said he would like to see the other villages push for a fairer sales tax formula, and an increase in funds. Freezing the money to the towns and villages is a factor in the rising village tax rate over the years, village officials said.

The board will continue to look at the village budget, for ways to reduce costs. Sidari said Medina already runs a lean operation.

But he thinks there could be some small savings perhaps through a uniform phone provider, by using state bids and perhaps some immediate shared services with the towns.

“These are nickels and dimes,” he said. “But the small stuff can add up.”

Barhite, the former village trustee, urged the board to reach out to the employee unions and seek a wage freeze.

Village resident Mary Hare said an 11.7 percent tax rate increase would be “a good whack” at homeowners, raising their taxes by $100 to $200.

She praised the services provided by the village, and she thanked the department heads and the village employees for their commitment to Medina.

She knows those services come with a cost, but she urged the board to find ways to reduce the tax increase.

“I love the village,” she said. “Our services are fabulous and they don’t come cheap.”

The board will meet 5 p.m. today at the village offices on Park Avenue, with additional budget meetings at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and 6 p.m. on Thursday.