The village of Whitehall is set for the 2009-10 fiscal year.
Members of the village board of trustees voted to adopt the 2009-10 budget as well as the sewer and water budgets on April 13, with a 3.45-percent increase in tax rate for the general fund and 10-percent rate increases in the water and sewer funds.
The adopted budget numbers are equal to the tentative budget, calling for $1,570,811.62 in spending from $1,489,609 this year, an increase of $81,202.62, or 5.5-percent. The budget also projects an increase in revenues of $11,465 (5.9-percent increase) from $193,496 this year to $204,961 for the 2009-10 budget. Including omitted taxes from prior years and appropriated fund balance, the amount the taxpayers will have to pick up calculates at $1,323,036.21 in 2009-10, up from the 2008-09 total of $1,255,117.89.
The tax rate will increase by 3.45-percent to $15.82 per $1,000 of assessed property value on 2009-10, up from a tax rate of $15.29 in 2008-09.
Resident Marvin Brooks was the only commenter during the public hearing session on the proposed budget.
“I realize year after year it’s a difficult situation,” said Brooks, who added that he felt he should not have to pay both village and town taxes.
“Why should I pay town taxes as a resident who pays village taxes when the town taxpayers pay nothing to the village,” said Brooks.
“Its something that we could look into,” said Mayor Francis “Fra” Putorti, “but right now for this meeting, that has nothing to do with this budget.”
As for the water and sewer fund, both will increase rates by 10-percent. In 2008-09, residents who paid the minimum charge paid $54.46 per quarter for water and sewer service ($17.07 for water, $37.39 for sewer). In 2009-10, those same residents will se an increase to $59.91 per quarter ($18.78 for water, $41.13 for sewer).
Overall, the total annual price tag will jump from $217.84 for both water and sewer in 2008-09 to $239.64 in fiscal year 2009-10.
With the water rate facing a 33-percent shortage, village clerk Joan Douglas said that the water district was the bigger budget to tackle.
“This is the most significant problem,” said Douglas.
“So we’re still short,” added Putorti.
“There’s only one way to fix it and that’s rates,” said Kenneth Bartholomew.
At the meeting, the village listen to a presentation from Fountain Forestry concerning taking lumber from the Pine Lake watershed area. Based on estimated revenues from a timber harvest, members of the board felt they could approve a 10-percent increase and hope to fill the rest of the shortfall with the harvesting profits.
“It will be a raise,” said Putorti. “At least it wont be 33 percent. At 10-percent, its not a big jump.”
“I don’t know where else you are going to generate funding,” said Douglas.
Trustee Sallyann Raino said that she was concerned about raising the water rates.
“I realize we have to increase, but I hate paying my water bill,” said Raino. “I understand how it goes with the budget, but personally, I think it’s crazy. I will be paying $300 in water and sewer. I understand why, but I still don’t like it. I don’t drink the water, I buy my water.”
“With the $300 in water and sewer rates, $100 is water and that’s every three months,” said Bartholomew. “That’s a $1.50 or less a day. How much does a bottle of water cost? In the end, it’s really not that much. The fact is that the water that comes out of here is now clean.”
“As the water comes out of our purification plant, we don’t need chlorine,” said DPW head Jiem Rozell. “The only reason we add chlorine is because of the infrastructure so the water stays clean.”
“I agree that the water is safe,” said Raino. “I just feel I pay a lot of money for water that I do not drink.”
Along with the water rate increase, the sewer rates will also increase by an equal amount of 10-percent.
“If you raise one 10, you will raise the other 10,” said Douglas. “All you are going to do is a calculation.”
Bartholomew said that while he was for the increase in order to level out the budget, there was still a need to find money somewhere to hire a new employee.
“One thing that we ain’t taken care of yet is our employee,” he said.
“We do need somebody,” agreed Putorti. “We do need them and we need to get them this year.”
“No one argues that,” replied Bartholomew, “but the only thing we don’t know is where were going to get the money.”
Trustee Walter Sandford asked if the village could hire someone on a part-time basis to start.
“We tried that and it didn’t work,” said Douglas.
“Part time is a waste of time,” added Bartholomew.
Rozell said that there might be a chance that a new position at the water and sewer plants could be paid for, in part, by stimulus money.
“All the stimulus money that is out there that has an attachment about employment and so many people you can create jobs for,” said Rozell. “I don’t know if there is anything out there, but that is something that you might want to look into.”
The board agreed to see if there were any grants that would cover the hiring of a new employee through the stimulus package.
“It is something that we can look into and then amend later,” said Bartholomew.