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Fredonia mayor unveils tentative budget

FREDONIA – The mayor and members of the board of trustees have differences of opinion on what it takes to balance the 2015-16 budget.

Mayor Steve Keefe presented his tentative budget Monday during a special meeting in Village Hall. Among his ideas is a plan to cut the board of trustees to four members and give the mayor the power to vote. Trustee Joe Cerrie said this would require a referendum. Cerrie’s idea is to eliminate the mayor’s job and name the village clerk as an administrator.

The big-ticket item of difference in the budget would be the Fire Department. Several months ago, new positions were added to the department with a caveat that if the revenues from transporting patients in the ambulance did not cover the cost by June, the board could cut the jobs.

Cerrie said that revenues have increased. But the mayor said the village needs to cut three positions from the Fire Department and realize a savings of about $280,000.

The mayor said his budget allows the Police Department to hire a full-time officer to replace a senior patrolman who retired. He said the savings is $37,000 with a new officer who makes less money and has fewer benefits. The mayor also favors a full-time officer at Fredonia Central School. The school district will contribute $30,000 toward the position, which costs about $85,000.

The mayor’s proposal calls for an increase in property taxes, water rates and sewer rates. He attributes the need for more revenue to the closing of Carriage House. The food production company was the biggest source of water and sewer revenues for the village and one of the largest employers.

The $9.6 million mayor’s budget calls for a tax increase of 96 cents, bringing the rate to $35.25 for each $1,000 of assessed value.

His proposal seeks $1.30 more on each 1,000 gallons of water used and would have that rate at $4.31. The sewer rate would be $6.15 in his proposal, adding $2 to each 1,000 gallons of waste.

The mayor’s plans for savings would be to combine the village’s court with the Town of Pomfret court and share services.

He said he has already approached the mayor of Dunkirk and will look toward sharing services with the nearby city.

While they accepted the mayor’s budget as the tentative spending plan, the trustees will continue to review numbers with department heads for changes. They will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

A formal budget must be complete by May 1.