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Penn Yan expenses up, so are valuations

    PENN YAN—The Penn Yan village budget for 2012-13 has an increase in expenses along with increased revenue from higher property valuations. The net effect of both factors has resulted in an adopted spending plan with a 2.63 percent tax levy increase ($67,955) which is under the state’s allowed guidelines (3.29 percent cap for Penn Yan).
    During the regular meeting on Tuesday, April 17, the village board approved a spending plan for next year that equals $4,362,090. Compared with the current budget of $4,075,271, that is an increase of seven percent. The upcoming fiscal year for the village begins June 1.
    In the village’s three townships (Milo, Benton and Jerusalem), the overall assessed valuation of property has increased from $173,690,423 to $176,252,329. Trustee Richard Stewart explained as a result, the tax rate percentage for property in each of those towns increased lower than that of the levy. For each home in both Milo and Benton, the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value rose from $14.81 to $15.01 (1.14 percent increase). In Jerusalem, that value increased from $15.46 to $15.63 (1.15 percent).
    Before voting to adopt the spending plan, a public hearing was held to give people an opportunity to comment on the matter. During that time, Stewart brought up the idea of using $30,000 from the village’s fund balance so there would be no tax rate increase. “In other years, we have taken money from the reserve fund,” he pointed out. “I just think this will help the residents of Penn Yan.” However, Stewart’s suggestion was met with opposition from other board members. Trustee Michael Christensen expressed concern about how using the balance this year could give the village less financial cushion for future budgets. “I recognize the effort,” he told Stewart. “I’m just concerned it could have a longterm effect on future budgets.
    Mayor Bob Church also spoke out against using the fund balance. Church explained since there is no revenue from Yates County and very little state aid, using those reserves now could mean the village will not have fall-back options for finances in coming years. “This is a taxpayer’s budget,” he stated. “We can’t depend on an increase in state aid.”
    Along with not being able to rely on state and county assistance, Church made note of some rising costs which the village has deal with. Retirement expenses rose by four percent. The mayor also indicated the increase in health insurance has been capped at 11 percent. He said it was nice there is a limit on how high those costs can elevate, but “it is still 11 percent.” With increased expenses, Church pointed out plenty of spending had already been reduced just to get the tax cap where it is now. “We have cut and cut and cut,” he said. The board also decided to borrow around $150,000 for street repairs. After the meeting, Clerk/Treasurer Shawna Wilber said the village is still trying to determine exactly where that money would be borrowed from. Church noted the village has been lucky since ways have been found to trim finances without handing pink slips to village employees. Yet, as expenditures continue to increase, he explained Penn Yan might not have such a luxury in the future. “It is getting harder every year,” he said. Given the financial constraints, Church added he was satisfied with the increases in the tax levy and tax rates. Trustee Bart Winslow Jr. said he agreed with Church and stressed the importance of taking action within reason. “While I think it is admirable to want (the tax rate) increase to be at zero (percent), I don’t think it is realistic,” Winslow stated.
    Wilber said she felt the fund balance should only be utilized if it applies to an expenditure that is paid for in one setting. “In my opinion, a fiscally responsible way of using the fund balance is if it applies to a one-time expenditure that will not have a longterm effect,” she explained. “If it is not a one-time circumstance, it makes it harder to accommodate the functions of running this government.” According to Wilber, the village currently has $635,000 in the fund balance. Deputy Mayor/Trustee Bill Allison noted while that might seem like a great amount, it really is not that much money. Church mentioned a plus for saving those finances is that they would be available if any unexpected circumstances emerge that require additional funding.
    After the board adopted the upcoming spending plan, Church acknowledged it had been a difficult budget process. “It was a lot of work,” said the mayor.
    In other business:
    • Attorney Edward Brockman brought up the possibility of the village adopting a moratorium on hydrofracking. Brockman said the benefit of instilling a moratorium is it would give the board time to learn more about the matter in order to determine if adopting a law on banning drilling is necessary. He recommended the moratorium target oil and gas industries. Brockman indicated the subject would be discussed at the next village planning board meeting. Trustee David Reeve stressed the importance of understanding village zoning laws before drafting anything. Church pointed out each town where Penn Yan is located already has a moratorium in place. However, Brockman clarified the village still needs to have its own zoning regulations.
    • An application from Jim Schnitzler, who owns the Penn Yan Radio Shack, for a $4,777.38 grant and $4,777.38 loan was approved. The money will go towards putting a sign in front of the organization’s new location at 126 Main Street.
    • Dan Doyle, the recreation director, expressed interest in putting up signage around the baseball field on Elm Street discouraging smoking in areas where little league games are being played. Doyle said he has spoken with the Tobacco Action Coalition of the Finger Lakes on the matter and noted the organization would provide the signs. He added that he would like to see designated areas from smoking away from the ball field. Brockman warned there would not be enough time to establish a law against smoking before little league season begins in May. He recommended if signs are put up, they should clearly indicate smoking is not preferred, rather than sounding like a law, in case any individuals want to challenge the ruling.
    • A resolution to allocate $12,542 towards playground and outlet trail revitalization was approved. The money will come out of the reserve fund unless there are any finances left over from this year’s budget.
    • The board approved to hold a public hearing about amending the “Keuka Watershed Improvement Cooperative” Uniform Wastewater Enforcement Chapter of the Code of the Village of Penn Yan during the next regular meeting on Tuesday, May 15 at 6 p.m.
    • Rich Pierle was appointed planning board vice-chair for a one-year term.
    • The board approved to hold the little league parade on Saturday, May 5.
    • Warrants in the amount of $472,560.66 were approved.
    • A joint meeting between the Village of Penn Yan and town of Milo will take place Monday, April 30 at 9 a.m. The next regular meeting will be Tuesday, May 15 at 6 p.m. Both meetings will take place at the Penn Yan village hall.


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