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Village of Lewiston set to approve 2018-19 budget

by jmaloni
Sat, Apr 7th 2018 07:00 am
Trustees expect to approve budget at April 16 meeting
By Joshua Maloni
Managing Editor
When the new Village of Lewiston fiscal year begins June 1, residents can expect to pay the same property tax - $7.38 per $1,000 of assessed valuation - but a higher water rate.
The Niagara County Water Board is charging the village an extra 15 cents (90 cents total) per 1,000 gallons. As such, Lewiston residents can expect to pay 11 cents more, a total of $3.70 per 100 cubic feet.
A water bill of $100 would increase to $101.35.
Trustees in the village opted to keep the sewer rate flat, at $4.69 per 100 cubic feet.
For 2018-19, the total estimated budget is $3.59 million, which is an increase of 4 percent ($126,920). When paired with the current tax rate, an appropriated fund balance of almost $252,000 would be required to balance the budget (if all goes according to schedule).
However, Village of Lewiston Deputy Treasurer Edward Walker said, "We have projected those kind of appropriated fund balances in the past three years - in that kind of range - and we've not needed them. As a matter of fact, our accountant (Pat Brown of Brown & Company) is rather pleased with how we have been able to maintain the fund balances."
Currently, the Village of Lewiston has a general fund balance of more than $1.85 million.
As in years past, Walker prepared a budget highlight sheet for the board and residents.
The village's top five expense items - all essential services - make up 57 percent of the budget. These include:
√ Sewage treatment - $486,782
√ Fire protection - $482,645
√ Water services - $361,288
√ Employee benefits - $411,100
√ Police protection - $284,004
Additionally:
√ Employee and retiree health insurance is up 11 percent.
√ The board agreed to fund the recreation department for a complete fiscal year, which brings an additional cost of $23,081 (or 0.01 percent of the budget). Trustees fully support creating more warm-weather-month programs and activities for village youth.
"Given the bang for the buck that we get from (Recreation Director Brendan McDermott's) recreation department, I'm really looking forward - as is the board - to see what he's able to do with that," Walker said.
√ Walker said the village is pursuing tax-free municipal bond investment opportunities, which could yield a return of thousands of dollars.
√ Under the state tax cap threshold, the board can raise the tax rate by 2.13 percent, or 16 cents, which would result in an additional $23,807. Trustees are not in favor of such a tax increase.
A public hearing on the budget proposal yielded zero resident comments.
Trustees are planning to approve the budget at their regular monthly meeting, at 6 p.m. Monday, April 16, in the Red Brick Municipal Building's Morgan Lewis Village Boardroom, 145 N. Fourth St. A public hearing on the water rate will be held prior to the meeting.
More Events Approved; Liquor Conversations Continue
Trustees approved dates for:
•The village election, which will take place from noon until 9 p.m. Tuesday, June 19.
•The U.S. Air Force Heritage of America Band Blue Aces concert, slated for 6-8 p.m. Thursday, June 7, at Hennepin Park. This event is free and open to the public.
•The 40th annual Niagara County Peach Festival 5K, which kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, beginning at KeyBank on South Fifth and Center streets.
•The Mighty Fitz 5K, which will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, starting at 432 Center St.
The Village Board heard once more from Western New York event promoter Corey McGowan, of Corey McGowan Productions, who seeks to serve alcohol within a contained environment during Lewiston Council on the Arts events. He would serve as an independent contractor, splitting proceeds with the LCA.
Last month, trustees voted 3-2 to deny McGowan's request to serve alcohol at the LCA's "Blue Monday" concerts at Hennepin Park. Mayor Terry Collesano and trustees Vic Eydt and Nick Conde cast the dissenting votes, citing concerns about crowd control, traipsing beverage storage containers and/or vehicles across the park grounds, insurance liability and setting a precedent for other outside vendors.
This time around, the board voted 5-0 to allow McGowan to sell alcoholic product during the "Summer of '69" concert from 6-10 p.m., Friday, July 13. As part of the approval, the open alcoholic beverage container law will be lifted in the part during the event.
Lewiston Police Department Chief Frank Previte said McGowan and company will have to post signs indicating where drinking is allowed.
McGowan said he will cordon off the area and park the refrigeration caddy on the street.
Village Law Counselor Joseph Leone said the event organizers must obtain a "hold-harmless" insurance policy indemnifying the municipality from any fault or damages.
Trustees also approved a McGowan/LCA request to sell alcoholic beverages from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 26, as part of the Taste of Lewiston. Conde again voted "No," while Collesano abstained. Here again, the local law will be lifted during this event.
The board did not approve the McGowan/LCA request to serve beverages as part of the Lewiston Art Festival on Aug. 11-12. Collesano, Eydt and Conde cast the "No" votes.
After the meeting, Conde, again, raised the issue of setting a precedent, inviting other vendors to submit requests.
Eydt said he considers the Art Festival as similar to the Niagara County Peach Festival, which doesn't permit beer or alcohol.
"My feeling is it's always been a family event; I don't want to open that door," Eydt said.
He explained he's spoken with residents and the majority favor keeping festivals family-friendly.
Sutherland Provides Update on Lewiston Landing
On Wednesday, Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland provided The Sentinel with an update on Lewiston Landing. Rising water levels wreaked havoc on the shoreline last summer, preventing the municipality from opening its boat docks.
"Our waterfront has been under assault by high water levels for over a year," Sutherland said. "Many factors are contributing to this problem: heavy rains, snow melt and, of course, the 2014 International Joint Commission plan to provide for more natural variations of water levels that are needed to restore ecosystem health, maintain navigation and extend the recreational boating season. We can argue how well the IJC is managing that plan, but, in the end, we know we have to take care of what we have.
"We are doing just that."
State and federal money is available to reimburse communities adversely affected by the high water levels. The village is looking for compensation to repair and possibly improve upon the damaged shoreline areas.
"Once all the players were organized and brought to the table, we have been having weekly meetings - nine to date - with (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Niagara County Emergency Services, our insurance company, our engineering (Nussbaumer & Clark Inc.) and DPW team," Sutherland said. "Vic Eydt and I have been working closely with this group. FEMA has been the lead agency and we are making headway.
"We have estimates to bring the seawall back to pre-existing conditions, but do not know the full extent of damage until we can get under the walkways and decks. The real question is what is going to be the new normal water level. All of us want to reinforce the wall to a height that will not allow a reoccurrence of what happened last year, with the water spilling over the landing. The extra cost for this, once that water level is determined, will be financed through mitigation with FEMA.
"We have divided the repair work into three sections: north, middle and south. The middle section we might be able to tackle first. This means we would repair the brick walkway and install new docks to allow walkers and boaters safe access to the area. Engineering and water levels will dictate when we can start this repair project. We are hoping we can salvage a majority of the boating season and ensure the boat launch will remain useable."
Earth Day Cleanup
The Village of Lewiston's annual "Spring Cleanup" is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, April 21. Participants will meet at the Red Brick, where they will be given trash bags, gloves and assignment maps. Refreshments will be provided courtesy of Bob Burns and his area Tim Hortons cafes.

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