by Susan Mikula Campbell
Wheatfield is now $2.228 million "in the black," compared to the deficit of three years ago.
"Frankly, we're in very good shape," Supervisor Bob Cliffe said at Monday's Town Board meeting, noting that the town's annual financial report update was filed with the state comptroller's office on March 28. The report summarizes the town's financial status as of Dec. 31, 2012.
Of the town's eight operating budgets, only one, fire protection districts, is still a little bit in the red at $67,606, Cliffe said. Also, long-term debt, originally at $15.6 million, has been reduced to $11.6 million.
Cliffe credited the work of Ed Mongold, town budget director, as the primary reason for the healthy unreserved, unappropriated fund balance. He also praised town department heads for not spending money unless necessary.
Cliffe noted that when he took office the town was $663,000 in the red, including funds designated to reduce taxes "that we didn't have."
Mongold said in his report that revenues have exceeded expenses for the third year in a row due to a slight increase in sales tax revenues, a slight increase in water and sewer revenues due to the hot dry summer, and the careful monitoring of expenditures with the purchase order system implemented two years ago.
He is recommending that water rates be increased for 2013 to provide needed cash for the water district fund. Although this fund had a total fund balance of $156,414 at the end of 2012, the cash balance was only $5,783. The fund balance primarily represents outstanding water bills from which the cash will not be collected by the county until 2013.
In other matters:
•The board approved spending $5,000 again this year for special Niagara County Sheriff's ATV patrols. Councilman Larry Helwig noted that farmers complain about ATVs because they destroy crops and residents complain about the noise. He asked that the town prosecutor be notified that the Town Board wants fines for these offenders.
•The board approved the annual agreement with Highway Superintendent Art Kroening for this season's road repairs and improvements, expected to cost $400,000. These include: a quarter-mile of overlay for Jennifer Court leading to Lancelot Drive; 1.5 miles of milling and overlay for Hoover Road and Brent Drive to Lockport Road; a half-mile of overlay for Katherine Drive from Walmore Road to Rebecca Drive; a half-mile of overlay for Rebecca Drive from Jagow Road to Lancelot Drive; a half-mile of overlay for Washington Street from Schultz Street to Hunt Street; a quarter-mile of overlay for Hunt Street from Niagara Road to Stoelting Street; a quarter-mile of overlay for Wurl Street from Hunt Street to Niagara Road; a half-mile of milling and overlay from Witmer Road from Niagara Falls Boulevard to Ferchen Street; and various minor road repairs. The board also is discussing allocating funds for the repair of Craig Drive and whether the work can be done this year or saved for next year.
•Kroening also reminded residents that the Highway Department will be back to scheduling brush pickup next week and to "put the butt ends facing out to the road."
•Assessor Brigette Grawe alerted residents that the state budget includes a proposal that would require all basic STAR recipients to register with the state Tax Department to receive or continue receiving the STAR exemption. Currently, there is no way to check whether somebody is filing on a second residence in another municipality, she said. The basic STAR is only for the tax filer's primary residence.
She said the program will apply to 2014 exemptions, and taxpayers will be notified by mail when it is time to register.
Senior citizens who receive enhanced STAR deductions will continue to register yearly through the town assessor's office, she said.
•Recreation Director Ed Sturgeon reported that the Easter break camp at the Youth Center last week was a sellout success and that some of the kids "wanted to know if they could come back this week."
•The next Town Board meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 22.