Trustees hacking away at personnel

The impending closure of Carriage House and subsequent loss of about 425 local jobs by February has finally given its one-two punch on the proposed 2014-15 water and sewer funds for the village of Fredonia.

The village board met Wednesday for its final budget workshop, and it looks like trustees are settling on personnel cuts in both the wastewater treatment plant and the water filtration plant. Four jobs are expected to be lost at the wastewater treatment plant, which is half of the total number of workers budgeted in Mayor Stephen Keefe’s proposal released before Carriage House’s announcement.

“Carriage House was such a huge contributor to our sewer system, with all their waste and the products and everything else,” Keefe said. “It’s a very dim, sad situation. Everyone is feeling the pain of the industry moving out, but hopefully new industries will come in and some other options may come up as to how we maintain our wastewater treatment plant.”

The elimination of four jobs brings the sewage treatment/disposal budget line in the sewer fund to just under $300,000, which is $116,642 less than the current year.

“The water and sewer funds are taking the biggest hit (from Carriage House’s shuttering),” Trustee Joseph Cerrie said. “It was 70 percent of the production at the wastewater plant. We want to be certain we use the fund balance appropriately to reduce the budget shortfall, along with cutting major expenses; we built it up the past few years in case of an emergency, and here’s the emergency.”

Other major slashes in the sewer fund include a decrease in chemical purchases by $60,000 (new total $78,100) and dumping fees by $52,000 (new total $63,000).

“It’s a gamble, but what can you do?” Village Administrator Richard St. George remarked. “We don’t know how Carriage House is going to close down and how it’s going to happen. (Chief Operator Betsy Sly) estimated a certain portion (of layoffs there) happening at the end of summer, then another portion during the fall, then the final phase in February. It’s her best guess.”

One full-time person is expected to be out of a job at the filtration plant, according to the budget proposal Wednesday, which should save the village almost $50,000. Keefe’s budget held the total number at five workers.

“You’re going to have to have more overtime in there since … Carriage House isn’t going to close down June 1, but that worker is coming out then, so you’re going to have to supplement his work with overtime,” St. George explained, pointing out the overtime line in the water fund was bumped up $18,000 over the current year. “The plant is going to run two shifts like it used to, instead of three. They’ll run at a lower level at night.”

St. George added the 2014-15 proposed budget includes revenues from Carriage House still, meaning next year’s budget will continue on with even more ways to offset intended revenue losses once the plant closes fully.

“More revenue is going to come out next year, so you’re going to have a whole set of new problems then,” he told the trustees.

On top of the potential job losses at the plants, customers should expect a fee increase in both the water and sewer rates. Trustees proposed a 10-cent increase in the water rate, bringing the number to $3.02 per thousand gallons, while the minimum sewage charge will be anywhere between $25 and $35 per quarter. The current minimum rate stands at $10 per quarter.

“Everyone’s going to feel that (rate increase); it’s going to be a big knot on everybody,” Keefe said.

“An increase will have to have a public hearing before it can actually happen,” Cerrie said.

Part-timers at the streets department are also expected to be cut from the budget, with streets personnel in the water and sewer funds trimmed to $254,000 each, down $45,000 total over the current year, excluding general fund.

“Remember, we got two out over there (in the streets department), and that’s spread throughout general, water and sewer,” St. George said.

Also during the workshop, the trustees took out about an additional $13,000 in utilities, training, gas, electricity and supplies lines.

The board entered into executive session to discuss personnel in the water department.

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