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Village official warns of possible budget shortfall

The Fredonia Village Board is treading cautiously through the rest of the village's fiscal year, uncertain about possible changes in state and federal funding or unexpected, unbudgeted expenses or repairs within the village.

Monday night, Village Administrator Rick St. George told the Village Board he drew up some rough figures based on speculation about state and federal funding. If the figures turn out to be true, the village could face a shortfall of more than $147,000 in this year's budget. The shortfall, on top of expenses already incurred this year, could raise the total shortage to $237,000.

A portion of those village expenses includes $55,248 owed to the United Church apartment complex on Brigham Road for a court-ordered property tax assessment adjustment for the years 2004-09. The board Monday night voted to pay $30,000 of that total this year, with the remainder payable next fiscal year with 9 percent interest tagged on.

The board tabled a resolution that would renew the 1891 Fredonia Opera House lease for another five years, following a discussion about possibly shortening the lease. The village has assisted the opera house in paying for its utilities since 2002. The average yearly village cost for this expense is about $14,000.

Trustee Gary Damico told Rick Davis, executive director of the opera house, who was at the board meeting, that the board does not want to jeopardize any outside funding the opera house receives. However, he said, it is the goal of the board to see the opera house eventually become self-sufficient.

Mayor Michael Sullivan said he would not like to see the board commit to another five-year lease, not knowing where the village is headed as far as a possible budget shortfall this year.

Davis said similar theaters in the region receive financial support from the village or county in which they are located. The opera house currently offers 111 entertainment events each year, some of them at no charge to the public due to grants they receive. This year, there has been a decrease in attendance, he said, due to the economy.

He added that the opera house has taken steps to curtail spending and has added energy-efficient lighting to cut utility costs. Trustee Michelle Twichell said, "It looks like you're doing everything you can." Trustee Jacqueline Penfold Williams agreed.

In other business, A.W. Farrell & Son of Dunkirk was granted an extension until July 31, 2009, to reroof Village Hall.

The board will not meet next Monday.

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