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Water system's losses mar financial picture

The Village of Williamsville is in sound financial health, but the village's water system continues to be a major, money-losing financial burden.

These were some of the conclusions drawn by the Drescher and Malecki accounting firm, which presented its audit to the Village Board this week for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Partner Wayne Drescher said the fact that the village's fund balance grew from 2008-09 to 2009-10 is a healthy sign. "Their savings account is very sound," he said.

Those general fund reserves grew by $180,811 year-to-year and ended with a balance of $2.2 million.

Village Administrator Lynda Juul said she was pleased with the general fund's position, "especially with some of the fiscal issues that will be coming up as far as cost increases and state aid that is projected to be relatively flat."

The village's money-losing water system remains a growing problem. The water fund deficit tripled from 2008-09 to 2009-10. The fund saw a year-end loss of $99,397, which, added to the previous year-end deficit of $35,482, yielded a total loss of $134,879.

"It's getting worse," Drescher said of the deficit.

He pointed out, however, that the town did raise water rates to make up for the deficit, not all of which were accounted for in the audit because of timing.

The village also recently installed new back-flow preventers to help keep water purchased by the village from leaking out of its system.

The fact that the village is working actively to contain and reduce water system costs is a mark in its favor, Drescher said, but the accounting firm has encouraged the village to address the deficit by possibly merging with the Erie County Water Authority and raising water rates again to contain the deficit in the meantime.

"It's a difficult situation," he said.

Juul responded that because of repairs to the village's aging water system, water loss for calendar year 2010 is down "significantly" from 2009.

At the board meeting, Mayor Mary Lowther expressed deep concerns about the state's dim financial picture and its impact on the village, especially given the possibility of being forced to live with a state-mandated property tax cap, which she likened to a "suicide pact."

e-mail: stan@buffnews.com

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