Fredonia considering tax cap override

“The Board of Trustees of the Village of Fredonia desires to override the property tax cap, if the village board determines it necessary to do so, to adopt a proper and sustainable budget for Fredonia for its coming fiscal year …”

That is the beginning of a resolution calling for a public hearing at the next board meeting (March 10 at 7:30 p.m.) regarding an override of the state-mandated tax cap for next year’s budget.

The resolution was passed Monday with Trustee Marc Ruckman against it and trustees Janel Subjack, Phyllis Jones and Joseph Cerrie in favor. Trustee Susan Mackay was on vacation and unable to vote.

Ruckman said he voted “nay” because of the first paragraph, not because he was denying the public the ability to speak on the matter.

“What’s the limit after the override? Four percent? Six percent? More?” Ruckman questioned. “I’m all for the public being there and giving their input, but it’s kind of odd the way this was worded. It just seems like we’re opening up a door, and I don’t want to override the tax cap.”

Mayor Stephen Keefe insisted the board has no intention of raising taxes any more than necessary.

“If we do go over the tax cap, the village could be severely penalized,” he said. “If we approve an override and we don’t go over, we’re not penalized. If we do approve it and we do go over, that means we couldn’t get the budget to where we needed it to be with the tax cap. Hopefully we’ll be under the cap; it’s going to be a very hard budget this year, but we’ve been within the cap for the past two years.”

Keefe cited rising pension and health insurance costs, overtime for snow plowing this winter and equipment replacements as reasons for the tight budget outlook.

A positive, he said, was that two part-time department heads were hired instead of full-time ones, netting the village a bit of savings.

“We’ve done a lot for savings, but in a government as small as ours, there’s not a lot of savings you can come up with,” he said. “What we need to do is find better revenue sources, such as an energy management response agreement and an energy efficiency project at the wastewater treatment plant, which will be in this upcoming budget.”

Keefe said he also hopes to make progress with the regional water district to realize savings and/or additional revenue. Fredonia is not currently signed on as part of the district due to a concern the water filtration plant will close in the long-term plan.

Village Administrator Richard St. George estimated Fredonia’s tax levy cap at $58,491, or 71 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value. Four trustees are needed to override the cap.

Also during the meeting, Keefe announced the trustees are being asked to sign their name once they receive meeting minutes, a response to Ruckman claiming he no longer received minutes. Some village employees took offense to Ruckman’s comment.

“My comments were not directed to those that took offense to it,” Ruckman said. “As far as signing for minutes, I’m not going to. If they ask me, I’ll tell them ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and that’s it. The matter simply was I wasn’t getting them.”

“He received his minutes,” Keefe said. “It’s just a way for us knowing the trustees do have their minutes. If someone didn’t receive them, we will have documentation if they really did.”

He added every trustee receives minutes in a “timely manner.”

“What I’d like to do is make sure they do receive their minutes,” Keefe said. “For some reason, he (Ruckman) received his and didn’t sign.”

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