Budget cutting continues after Carriage House news

Some tough decisions are being brought to the table as discussions over the 2014-2015 Fredonia village budget continue to trudge forward.

The village board held its first budget session Monday since news hit last week of the impending closure of Carriage House, Fredonia’s largest private employer, and elimination of about 425 jobs by February. Up at bat first was the sewer fund, which is projected to see a decrease of about $678,000 in revenue directly associated with the closing business.

Since specifics over Carriage House’s closure procedure are not out in the open yet, village officials say they are being “left in the dark” and must plan for something they are unclear about.

“Not knowing how they’re going to proceed with the closure, how that closure is going to take place, it prevents the village from coming up with more reasonable assumptions to build its budget, so we have to come up with a set of assumptions that we don’t know whether they’re close to being reality or whether they’re way out in left field,” Village Administrator Richard St. George said, adding the board is assuming operations at Carriage House will begin downsizing around the fall.

Among ideas tossed about at the budget session were personnel cuts, including potential eliminations of three full-time positions at the wastewater treatment plant and/or a person in the clerk’s office. The board entered into executive session to discuss personnel at the wastewater plant once the topic came up.

“If the board chooses, you could move payroll services (for the wastewater plant) to a third party, such as ADP, and that could save you anywhere from $35,000 to $40,000,” St. George said on the topic of the clerk’s office position. “The union may or may not fight you on that one since they may realize we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”

Another option the board has is to leave a position at the department of public works in attrition, since that employee has left. St. George said that would be a potential savings of about $13,300 in the sewer fund alone, with additional savings realized from less benefits the village has to pay out.

“We’re looking to find savings and cut wherever we can,” Mayor Stephen Keefe said, adding he would not comment on personnel matters when the OBSERVER asked about those potential cuts. “It’s going to be throughout the whole budget, not just the sewer portion. We’re looking at anything and everything here. It’s going to be a tough time getting to where we need to be in this budget, and it’s going to hurt everyone; there’s no sacred cows.”

The board also found savings in cuts from sewer fund lines for utilities, supplies, gasoline, maintenance, fees and equipment, among similar lines. About $60,000 in local funds were cut from capital projects associated with the wastewater plant and about $820,000 in payments on bonds for some other wastewater plant capital projects were delayed for after next year.

About 45.5 percent of the wastewater plant’s revenues and about 75 percent of the loading there come from facilities at Carriage House, according to village officials.

St. George announced at the end of the budget session if no additional fund balance is used, about $517,000 must still be cut from the sewer fund to offset losses associated with Carriage House.

In addition to losses seen in the sewer fund, the water and general funds of the village budget must all be scrutinized by the village board to offset revenue losses at Carriage House. A shortfall of about $822,000 can be seen in those two funds combined.

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