Good news, bad news in Pittsford budget
By Bruce Edwards
Staff Writer | November 23,2013
PITTSFORD — A surplus in the town's general fund is dwarfed by an expected increase in highway spending, the Select Board was told this week.
The board received an update from Town Manager John Haverstock on a draft 2014-15 municipal budget.
Haverstock said the good news is that with existing revenue projections and level funding, there would be a $7,500 surplus in the general fund.
He said the “trouble spot” is the highway budget. To do the work that needs to be done for the coming fiscal year, he said, there is a shortfall of $150,000 to $160,000.
That picture could change if the town receives a grant from the state Agency of Transportation. While the town is due for a paving grant, Haverstock said, there's no guarantee it will happen.
If the grant does come through, he said, “that would solve the problem immediately for this year.”
Turning to the water and sewer funds, the town is in good shape when it comes to the water fund. The problem is the sewer fund, which Select Board Chairman Allen Hitchcock said continues to run a deficit of $25,000 a year.
“The water system is paying for itself and has been, but the sewer has been losing money for years,” Hitchcock said. “We adjusted the rates but we haven't hit it quite right yet and we're going to have to adjust them again, which means they are going to have to go up.”
Tax sale planned
The Select Board was also briefed on a delinquent tax sale scheduled for Dec. 17.
Haverstock said about a dozen properties are on the list. He said discussions have been held with half the property owners with the goal to get the town paid before the sale takes place.
Based on the last tax sale two years ago, Haverstock said he expects most property owners to either make arrangements to pay their delinquent taxes prior to the tax sale or within the one-year redemption period.
Overall, tax receipts are running ahead of last year, which the town manager said may seem surprising given the sluggish economy over the last five years.
“I think maybe in tough economic times the first thing people do is make sure their mortgage is paid up,” he said, “and the mortgage is the process by which most people pay their taxes, through escrow.”
Selectman Hank Pelkey said the delinquent tax problem has dropped considerably in recent years. He credited the threat of a tax sale with property owners paying their taxes on time.
Trustees of the Maclure Library asked the board to increase the town's contribution from $10,000 to $12,500 a year.
Trustee Dan Shea told the board the library is well used and provides a service that goes well beyond that of a library. He said a number of groups use the library throughout the year.
The library also puts on many of its own programs, he said, including summer reading for children and an adult book club and discussion.
“The bottom line our library is really like a community center,” Shea said. “It's an active place.”
He said an average of 10 to 20 children can be found at the library after school every day.
Shea said the library held nine fundraisers during the year to make up for a shortfall in the budget.
The school also has some maintenance issues. “It's a nice building, but it costs us a lot to keep that thing going,” he said.
He said contributions made by Omya were a big help.
Based on a recent informal suggestion of Bob Harnish, a library trustee, the town added $10,000 to its proposed budget. However, Haverstock said the town would entertain increasing its contribution by $2,500.
The extra money didn't appear to be a problem for Pelkey, who said the library has become, in effect, a baby-sitting center and teen spot.
“In fact, the town gets a pretty good deal for the money we spend,” he said.