Few options for massive tax hike in Forestville

The 445 percent proposed increase in the tax rate for the village of Forestville has caught the attention of county and state officials, but it is still unclear if they can be of any help.

A tax levy increase of $454,000 was proposed by the Forestville Village Board at a special meeting March 28. This translates to a tax rate increase from $5.13 per thousand assessed value to $27.97.

It was noted much of this increase is due to one-time costs, including $247,000 demolition debt repayment, $12,000 in interest on that debt, $150,000 from the Bennett State Road waterline bond anticipation note and $46,000 to replace the fire hall roof.

The demolition bond anticipation note would reach its five-year maturity in November, but because of an unfulfilled conversion to a revenue anticipation note, the debt is considered delinquent.

Because the demolition BAN and the Bennett State Road waterline BAN are with the same bank, the bank has refused to renew the waterline BAN, effectively making that debt due this fiscal year.

“The budget has been balanced with several notable exceptions that resulted in the massive tax rate increase. If this proposed budget is adopted as it stands, combined with the school, town and county taxes, Forestville will most likely have the highest property tax in New York state and one of the highest in the nation,” Mayor-Elect Kevin Johnson said at the meeting.

This increase in the tax rate would mean taxpayers owning a home assessed at $50,000 would be $256.50 this year compared to $1,398.50 in 2014-2015.

State Sen. Catharine Young and Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan both said they are aware of the situation but are not sure at this time what can be done to help.

Young said in a phone interview this past week, she is keeping a close eye on the situation in the village.

“I am very concerned about the situation. I have been in touch with the village and I am working on potential draft language that would allow them to stretch out their repayment, but … it may not work in their situation. We are keeping on top of it. It is basically under local decision-making process, but I want to help as much as I can and so we will keep communication open,” she said.

Young said she became involved because of the effect on taxpayers.

“What I am most concerned about is the terrible impact on the taxpayers. To have that kind of increase is devastating. That’s why I reached out to begin with, to see if there was something I can do to help. I am just sort of in a stand-by pattern right now, waiting for the village to get back to me to see if there is something that they would ask me to do. I would try, but this seems to be a unique situation and I think they need to figure out exactly what happened to proceed from there,” she added.

Young said she is waiting to see how things play out, but she may be limited in her options to help the village.

“There aren’t any state funds that would be able to cover this … I could certainly ask, but I doubt that there would be much support for doing something because of how it occurred,” she said, adding special legislation to spread out the debt would probably be the only way she could help.

“If I did do anything, I would need the support of the governor’s office and so on. Right now, I think it is premature to even talk about something like that because I am not really sure what the village is going to come back with, and (the governor’s office) may say to me that there is nothing that we can do legislatively, but certainly I want to help as much as possible and if they ask me to do something, I will do everything I can to help,” she said.

Horrigan said he is still gathering information, but also plans to look into helping Forestville if he can.

“We are in the process of contacting village officials to determine if there is an opportunity for Chautauqua County to help in some wa,y but at this point, we have not been able to gain all the required information,” he said.

He added, countywide, he would like to see property taxes reduced.

“My intention and hope is that we work together to minimize property taxes across Chautauqua County because that is probably one of the premier things that we can do for quality of life, for businesses and to grow Chautauqua County. So, property taxes are very important and when we see a village or a town that has this temporary situation, I think we all need to look to see, is there something that can be done to minimize this?” he said.

The Forestville Village Board will hold its reorganizational meeting Monday to swear in newly-elected officials. The regular meeting will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the village hall.

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