By Joshua Maloni
Trustees in the Village of Lewiston begrudgingly adopted the fiscal year 2019-20 budget at a special meeting on Monday. They lauded the number-crunchers – Clerk/Treasurer Amy Salada and Deputy Treasurer Stephanie Myers – but lashed out at the line items.
Board members acquiesced a 19-cent tax raise is necessary – and acknowledged they may need to take more than $285,000 in appropriated fund balance to square the budget – but again called for regular work sessions to brainstorm ways to lower costs and raise revenues.
“(Trustee) Nick (Conde) brought up a good point – he and I were talking and I agree with what he said – through the year, I think we ought to set up times to meet with each of the (department heads), like (Department of Public Works Superintendent) Terry (Brolinski) and Amy and just go through (the budget),” Trustee Vic Eydt said. “Like every three months – once a quarter – where do we stand?”
“Can we brainstorm, as a team, even at the beginning if we did it once in a while, because if you look at last year, we pulled $270,607. This year, we’re pulling $285,260. It’s never going to go down,” Conde said.
The new budget is $3.72 million, which includes a tax rate of $7.57 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This adjustment falls within New York state’s 2% tax cap, and will yield almost $30,000 in additional revenue.
In lieu of raising taxes considerably more than 2% to balance the budget, “There’s probably other ways we can do it,” Conde said, and suggested trustees come prepared with imaginative ideas.
Some early suggestions included raising festival fees to offset the $20,000 it costs the DPW to clean up after events; raising the price on parking tickets; and upping the cost of inspections and/or requiring professions like landscaping to pay a fee for brush and grass pickup left after residential jobs.
Mayor Anne Welch reiterated what she said at a budget work session last week.
“You have to raise taxes to stay with the cost of living,” she explained.
“You have to realize we’re one-square mile. We have no room for expansion,” Welch said. “We have to be creative.”
“(Let’s) just get together and start now for next year,” Eydt said. “Start taking a look at this and see what we can do. Maybe we’re not going to come up with a lot, but if we can come up with even $10,000, that’s $10,000 we don’t have to come up with next year.”
“We’ll find it,” Trustee Claudia Marasco said.
“I think that’s a great idea” to start working on the budget now, Salada said, “because it’s like, instead of cramming for a test, you work on it all year long. And then you go into budget (time) more educated.”
“We’ve been good,” Eydt said. “Some of it’s been luck, and some of it’s been skills of the people that are working here. We’ve kept this down. We haven’t had a tax increase in four years, and now we’re only doing 2%. I think we’ve done a great job, but I think we can do better.”
“We’re going to do the best we can for our employees, for the village, for our residents,” Welch said.
The village’s fund balance at the end of 2018 was $1.73 million. Taking $285,260 to offset general expenses falls in line with accounting firm Brown & Company’s recommendation.
Trustees said the New York state comptroller’s office prefers appropriated funds be used first, before raising taxes more than 2% to balance a budget.