County debates helping Forestville

MAYVILLE – Not all Chautauqua County legislators are ready to dump landfill tipping fees into a Forestville bailout plan.

All Audit and Control Committee members attended Thursday morning’s meeting to add input to the county’s proposed bailout plan for the village.

Forestville Mayor Kevin Johnson also attended the meeting to discuss the village’s fiscally tangled web.

“We’re in a bad situation due to a series of missteps and mismanagement,” he said.

Legislators had mixed reviews of the county’s potential plan to loan $150,000 to the municipality, along with $87,344 in landfill tipping fees paid by Forestville in 2009.

The reimbursement of tipping fees would be given to Forestville in exchange for 14 future years of demolition credits to which it would otherwise be entitled.

The resolution is contingent on an audit by the state Comptroller’s Office of the village’s financial records from the past five years, and the village participating in a task force consisting of county officials who will examine the viability of the municipal entity.

A tax increase of 445 percent was included in the village’s proposed 2014-15 budget due to debt repayments, one in the amount of $150,000 for a waterline project, and $250,000 for an emergency demolition.

John Runkle, R-Stockton, asked Susan Marsh, director of finance, what the financial impact to county taxpayers would be if the plan is approved by the full legislature.

Marsh said there wouldn’t be a local share. The loan would be made out of the county’s capital reserves fund.

“I represent Stockton and the people of Chautauqua County, and I feel very badly for the people in Forestville,” Runkle said. “I can’t help but think there are a number of people sitting quietly at home with very strong opinions. These people have a right to have their voices heard in this particular matter.”

Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, said he was mainly concerned about the $87,344 in tipping fees.

“I have discomfort about the tipping fees,” he said. “Who’s to say another municipality won’t come forward and ask to be reimbursed? I want to help, but I do think there are risks.”

Nazzaro said after taking a glance at the landfill’s balance sheet, he didn’t believe it was a proper source to draw from.

“I cannot support taking money out of the landfill account,” he said. “Volumes are down, and it’s not financially as strong as it used to be.”

Nazzaro and Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, said they would be voting against the resolution unless further changes were made.

County Executive Vince Horrigan asked Johnson what the tax increase would be if the village did not receive the reimbursed tipping fees but did receive the loan for $150,000.

“Without running all the numbers, it would still be about a 125 percent increase,” Johnson said.

All legislators agreed that the financial past, present and future of the village should be taken into consideration, and added a third clause to the resolution requesting that the village seek funding for a study on its feasibility.

Last year, dissolution of the village was considered, yet strongly rejected by the community, which garnered a petition with more than 200 signatures opposing the idea.

After the study is completed, Johnson agreed it could aid the decision on whether to dissolve the village.

Horrigan said he and County Attorney Steve Abdella would look further into the possibility of drawing from other sources, or increasing the loan amount rather than using tipping fees.

George Borrello, R-Irving, cosponsored the resolution.

“This is a real expense for the benefit of everyone in the county,” he said. “I could go on and on with examples of situations where we’ve acted as one county and stepped in to help. The conditions of the agreement are good, and I think this is about setting things in the right direction.”

The village must submit a budget by April 30, and will wait to approve it until after Wednesday’s full meeting of the legislature at 6:30 p.m. in the legislative chambers of the Gerace Office Building.

A vote on the resolution will take place at that time.