Westfield adopts 2014-2015 budget

WESTFIELD – The residents of Westfield will see a tax rate increase for the next fiscal year.

The Westfield Village Board passed its proposed budget, which includes a 1.59 percent tax increase. The total budget is $2,318,312 with a tax rate of $10.38, an increase of 16 cents.

While the public hearing did not see any public comment, trustees on the village board had questions regarding line items.

Trustee Deb Puckhaber brought up the funding for the Patterson Library. The line item is currently at $35,000 which is an increase of $5,000. The library was receiving $40,000 in the past from the village.

Puckhaber identified the library as one potential spot to cut if the village were in need of extra funds.

She said some union employees have not received a raise in three years, while most village employees have not had one in a year. The village is still negotiating insurance rates and contracts for the upcoming fiscal year.

Mayor Michael Vande-Velde said he would be in favor of restoring the funds back to the full $40,000 amount and “in favor of supporting (the library) anyway we can.”

“I love the Patterson Library. They do phenomenal things and they work with all the other services we have. My job is to make sure that we take care of the village things first and then see if we have the money to do this and go up,” said Puckhaber. “I’m not opposed to what we have now and I’m not sure if we can afford to go up because we haven’t settled on the contract for our insurance yet.”

Village Clerk Vincent Luce said the cuts made in the budget, to services like the library, were meant to be a short-term cut. He said line items similar to the library were cut as a way to close a budget gap in previous years’ budgets.

“Those were short-term cuts. We haven’t cut from those programs in several years but we have continued to cut within in all of our departmental line items – the police department, the street department, administration, recreation – just to meet our budget needs,” Luce said.

Trustee Dave Brooker also brought up the increase in funding to the Westfield Development Corporation. He said the WDC has a 33 percent increase in this year’s proposed budget; by increasing the amount, the village is paying the same as the town of Westfield to the WDC – $18,400. Brooker said he would rather see Patterson Library receive the additional funding and decrease the WDC line.

VandeVelde said he is in favor of keeping the WDC funding the way it was proposed, saying the organization is doing great work retaining and recruiting jobs to the village. He said the current budget figure was proposed to stay in line with what the town is doing.

“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the WDC is working very, very hard to bring things to the village. It would be a great disappointment of mine if we decided to cut there. You can see where we are and we’re in the black. I don’t see the reason to try to scrimp and take a couple thousand of dollars,” VandeVelde said.

The village board elected not to change the amounts for the library or the WDC. Both were unchanged in the final adopted budget from the proposed budget figures.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com