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Village of Springville proposed property tax levy to increase for fiscal year 2013-14

SPRINGVILLE — Springville Mayor William Krebs presented the proposed the 2013-2014 budget to the village of Springville Board of Trustees, at its regular meeting, on March 19. Krebs called it “a smooth budget,” because it showed no tax rate spikes or added expenses.

In a slide show presentation that included graphs showing the historic tax levy growth, appropriations, revenue, fund balances and taxable valuation, during the last 15 years, Krebs explained the formula the board follows, when it decides where to set the property tax levy.

“The bottom line is, the [property] tax levy makes the news an awful lot, these days,” Krebs said. “Every municipality has a formula. Ours says we can go up to 2.42 percent and we’re way under that.”

The proposed property tax rate for 2013-14 is 1.6 percent, which makes the tax levy $1,612,690, or 1 percent higher than last year. The total appropriations, or the amount the village will spend, are $2,968,126, an increase of $122,219, from last year.

Krebs called the raise in appropriations a “modest increase,” which the board gleaned from reports presented by the departments the village funds, including the department of public works, transportation, police and others. According to a graph of the revenue the village had available, during the last 15 years, the village had used an unappropriated fund balance to make up the difference between the tax levy and other revenues, until 2008, when that money ran out.

“We had been dipping into our savings and, put simply, we ran out of it,” Krebs explained. “The trustees said, ‘This isn’t the best way to run a village.’ So, rather than relying on savings, we have worked on funding, as we go.”

According to Krebs, the tax levy in the village of Springville has increased about 3.5 percent during, the last 14 years and about 1.5 percent, during the last 5 years. Despite passing Local Law 2103A in February that would have allowed the board of trustees to exceed the tax levy cap of $1,635,404, the levy Krebs proposed for the upcoming fiscal year still comes in at $22,714 below that cap.

The mayor reported that the taxable valuation, or taxable property values, has decreased by $594,726 or .6 percent, during the last 14 years. He called that a flat growth trend, noting that 34 percent of the assessed property in the village is exempt, with 17 percent of parcels’ considered wholly exempt and 6 percent of parcels’ being partially exempt.

“I think we need to look at what this means, because it could negatively affect the income, for the village,” Krebs explained. Although he called the negative growth “alarming,” he also said that he did not know whether these percentages were unusual, but that he wanted to “look at what we can do, to increase assessments, to become a more viable government. We need to ask what is the role of government, to change this trend.”

Of the $2,968,126 in the village’s general fund, Krebs said that the tax levy contributes 54 percent of that, with non-property taxes making up 20 percent, which is mostly comprised of sales tax from Erie County, departmental income as 11 percent and state aid at 4 percent. Those funds go toward general government support, public safety, transportation, economic development, culture and recreation, community services, employee benefits and debt services. Of that, public safety receives 28 percent of that revenue and transportation, which includes sidewalk, streets and parking maintenance, taking 22 percent.

Every year, Krebs said the village trustees try to balance the budget, to undertake appropriation projects, such as upgrades for the control center, department of public works replacement schedule, streetscaping, economic development and rails to trails, among others.

“We try to spread them out through the budget,” Krebs said. He added that some of the projects, such as the M&T Park redesign, the flower contract with the Springville Area Chamber of Commerce, holiday banners and wreaths and school improvements are “relatively cheap projects to do that are examples of improvements we can do.”

Economic development, such as the continued focus on distressed properties in the village, were what Krebs called “not as tangible as purchasing a new dump truck, but just as important. We have to be ready to participate in [revitalization], to put Springville in a position to be more economically viable.”

Krebs said he considered the Rails to Trails project an equally-important initiative that “would enhance the area and bring visitors into Springville.

“Village life is enhanced by the services provided by the general fund. They make Springville a good place to be,” Krebs concluded. “If we didn’t look at these trends, we would be in crisis mode, every year. That’s not how we do things, here in Springville. We need to develop a growth plan and need to help ourselves, if we’re going to keep Springville a viable place.”

The board of trustees will vote on the proposed budget in April.

Karl Lux, superintendent of public works, presented his report that recommended awarding annual contracts to bidders who had submitted their numbers during a public bid opening on March 6. Slack Chemical Co. was awarded the bid for sodium chloride, Wayne Concrete will supply concrete, Lafarge North America was awarded the bid for stone with which to chip streets, Emerald Services of WNY, Inc. sent in the lowest bid for sidewalk replacement and curbing and Good Neighbor Services will perform tree removal and trimming. Lux’s recommendations for hiring five returning and three new summer employees were also accepted.

Lux also reported that several items from the streets, electric and waste water treatment divisions were declared surplus, and will be sold through Auctions International.

“I must have called 30 municipalities, and no one’s interested,” Lux said, of his efforts to get rid of the items in another way.

The items from the streets division will be sold for $77.50; the electric division’s surplus materials will be sold for $220 and the waste water treatment division items will be sold for $360. The village will receive 100 percent of that revenue.

In other board matters:
– Village Administrator Tim Horner swore in Johanna Healy as the new village board attorney. Healy had worked as an independent contractor for the village, previously.

– In response to a request by Peter Gabel, owner of Nature’s Pride Landscaping, Healy reported that, according to her research, vehicles can be up to 96 inches wide on all streets with operable lane widths of 10 feet, according to the New York State Department of Transportation. All village streets fall under that limit, with the exception of Carolina and Factory streets. Healy said that a special hauling permit for 102-inch plows may be obtained, provided the plow displays “the proper safety appurtenances.

“Violations are ticketable, and those [permits] would only be good on roads under the state’s jurisdiction which, in Springville, means Route 39,” Healy said.

The village board members could pass a resolution to extend that permit area to include village roads, but Healy said it was “an extremely complex process, requiring a great deal of time, on behalf of the board.”

She noted that she was unable to find “one, single example” of a village or town that had drawn up that extended permit.

“It’s really important that we respect the division of government and not infringe on the police ability to write tickets,” she said, about the request. “That really needs to be adjudicated through the court system. The board’s role in this is more of a permit issue than a ticket issue.”

Krebs said that “it’s clear that there shouldn’t be a need on village streets for a permit for huge plows.” He said that he would write a letter to Gabel, explaining Healy’s findings.

– The board received a proposal from the SACC to enter into a contract to decorate Main Street with flower baskets in two plantings, starting on May 23. Krebs said he would ask the SACC to draw up a contract, based on that proposal.

– Krebs presented a proclamation to declare April 26 Housing Opportunities Made Equal Day in Springville, in recognition of HOME’s 50th anniversary.

“It’s a worthwhile organization that instructs municipalities on how to make policies that don’t discriminate. It’s good for anyone who makes decisions on land use,” Krebs noted.

– Horner reported that capital improvements at the waste water treatment plant have been completed. The total project cost $4,154,000, with $2,985,000 of that coming from a Bond Anticipation Note and $825,000 from a rural development project grant.

“We’re happy to say it’s over and up and running,” Horner said.

The next Springville Board of Trustees meeting will be held on April 1 at 7 p.m. at the village municipal building, located on Franklin Street.
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