Published in Trumansburg Free Press March 31, 2004

Board of Trustees Discuss the Budget

by Bill Chaisson

The 2004-2005 village budget passed through its first round on the chopping block last night and $11,900 was trimmed away.  However, a total of $62,000 must be excised in order to achieve a balanced budget.  Most of the 8% rise in the budget over last year is due to increases in insurance costs and required payments to the state pension fund.  Also, village employees are customarily given 3% cost-of-living salary increases.  Revenues are assumed to be essentially flat, because the increase in property tax revenue based on the new assessment will not have an effect until next year.  Therefore some cuts must be made in order to balance the budget.

Before the budget discussion began Mayor Rod Ferrentino took the time to thank Trustees Mark Rich and Rick Willers for their service.  "I really enjoyed working with you two.  We solved a lot of problems", said Ferrentino with feeling.  He then gestured to Trustees-elect Mary Bouchard and John Hrubos, who were seated in the audience, and acknowledged that this meeting represented an "awkward moment", as the composition of the board would be changing in the middle of the budget process.  The new board members will assume their seats on April 5, when the budget discussion will continue.  The new budget must be adopted by April 24.  It is the mayorís intention that Trustee-elect Bouchard receive a 'crash course' from Clerk Treasurer Carolyn Bennett in the economics of the village budget.  Bouchard is an auditor for Cornell University and a CPA; she will be taking a week's vacation from her job to get acquainted with the intricacies of Trumansburg finances.

The issue of the Main Street Projectís fiscal effect on the budget was not addressed because Duane Shoen, the representative of the accounting firm Ciaschi, Dietershagen, Little, Mickelson & Company, LLP, could not be present.  Three years ago funds for the project were supposed to be transferred to a capital improvement fund.  According to Clerk and Treasurer Carolyn Bennett, the item was "budgeted and unbudgeted" and the transfer was never actually made.

At the March 22 meeting all departments made their budget requests and an item by item review was begun.  Trustee John Levine briefed the mayor (who was not present on March 22) on the progress thus far and review was resumed with a discussion about the Department of Public Works budget.  The DPW has requested the creation of a merit payment system.  Trustee Carl Potter opposed the idea, noting that such systems can cause hard feelings among employees.  Trustee-elect John Hrubos, weighing in from the audience, supported the scheme, arguing that it is a supervisor's responsibility to determine who deserves additional compensation.  Trustee Potter commented that "all [employees] think they work hard".  The cost of garbage removal was left unresolved, as bids for a 

new contract have not yet come in.  Mayor Ferrentino recalled with explicit pleasure that when he started on the board the cost of trash removal was $32,000 and that over the years through competitive bidding the price had come down to $10,000.

Several items related to the fire department and youth programs were passed over quickly because the costs are fixed.  Agreements are already in place with several towns and the county; their fiscal years have already begun.  The Trumansburg budget numbers must be adjusted to accommodate these prior commitments.  Another quick decision involved the matter of raising the salaries for the Board of Trustees and the Mayor.  These increases were refused, as is usual.  Trustee John Levine declined to receive his trusteeís salary, but will accept the mayorís salary because he "plans to do a fair amount of work" when he assumes that office after Mayor Ferrentino's imminent retirement.
It was noted that the rate for legal services to the village has been increased in the new budget.  Mayor Ferrentino proposed a new policy whereby all calls to the village's attorney would either be made by the mayor or be made with the permission of the mayor.  The proposal is an effort to better monitor village expenditures in this category.  The board decided to discuss the matter at a later meeting.

Savings were found in several places.  Some cuts were suggested in the zoning budget, but in the absence of Zoning Officer Doug Austic, they were not finalized.  Former trustee Marty Luster had intended to look into the establishment of historical preservation districts, but no one is interested in following up on the idea and the $500 allotted for the study was zeroed out.  No one present could remember exactly why $800 had been allotted for parks and the item was zeroed out.  The town library had requested a $6000 contribution from the village, but the board voted to reduce the contribution $1000 from last year's allotment to $3500.

In the revenue column water and sewer rates came under discussion.  The village has paid $80,000 to the county to increase the strength of the Jacksonville water pump in order to pump water up to Trumansburg.  The village is required to have a secondary water source.  In addition, the village must prepare to service the debt that will be acquired for construction of the new water tower.  In light of these expenses, Trustee John Levine proposed proactively raising the water rate 5% to reduce the size of necessary future increases.  This would amount to an average of an additional $20 per household per year.  After some number crunching and input from other trustees and the mayor it was decided to raise the water rate 2% and decrease the sewer rate 2%.  The latter is possible because of declining service on existing debt and expected savings from newly installed technology.
Mayor Ferrentino instructed Clerk Treasurer Bennett to rework the budget to reflect the changes made.  There is obviously much work still to be done.

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Last revised:  May 11, 2005