Story by Katie Bisaro
It was a difficult decision-making process for the Mayor and Village of Warwick Board of Trustees as they created the budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.
Two public hearings were held on Mon., Apr. 29 to first consider creating a local law allowing the Village to override the 2% tax levy cap and then to consider the proposed budget.
Need for Waste Water Treatment Plant
Driving Budget Increase
Faced with the need to finance a new $12 million waste water treatment plant, retain services already in place, minimize the impact on the 2,500 taxable households and parcels, Mayor Michael Newhard described the situation in a recent Mayor’s Column as “looking at a sheer cliff.”
The Board, various department heads, the Village Treasurer and Village Accountant have been working for three months on the budget and the challenges it presented.
Prior to the hearing and discussion on the proposed budget, a public hearing was held to consider a local law that would override the tax levy limit. Newhard noted that the Village has stayed at or under the 2% cap since its inception.
The 2019-2020 budget reflects a 2% increase in the General Fund portion of the budget. However, a separate Sewer Plant Land Tax has been established that goes beyond the tax levy cap.
Village Treasurer Michael Vernieri explained that the new waste water treatment plant, with a total cost of $12 million, will be financed over a 15-year period adding $428,000 to the tax levy per year to cover $5.5 million of the project.
The Village has already received a $3 million grant towards the new plant. Additionally, there are monies in an infrastructure fund and the sewer land fund to go towards the project and some equipment has already been purchased out of existing budgetary funds.
The tax levy will reflect a just over 13% increase in Village taxes above the cap, which, for an average assessed value of $40,000 (land assessment only), will result in a total increase of $170 per year. This amount will be assessed the same every year for the next 15 years.
With the 2% increase in the non-sewer plant related taxes totaling around $30 for that same $40,000 assessment, the total increase per household, on average, will be $200 or $16.66 per month.
Vernieri explained that they had looked into five, seven and 10-year payment plans as options with 15 years as the maximum plan considered due to other infrastructure needs that will likely come up during this time period that will need to be funded as well.
According to Vernieri, if additional funding comes in the sewer plant land tax will be reevaluated.
“If, for some reason, the federal government gives us a little bit more money, then obviously we will be able to reevaluate the payment and/or the number of years that we have to do it [levy taxpayers],” Vernieri stated.
Newhard added the sewer plant issue came up last year and the Board put off an override to the 2% tax cap in order to educate themselves and the public as to the need and cost of what the Village was facing with this project, one of the largest infrastructure projects ever undertaken.
“Over time it will touch many generations to pay back…but it will affect the future of our community for many, many years to come. It is desperately needed, and we will move forward with that,” Newhard said.
2019-2020 Budget Highlights
Highlights of the General Fund were outlined by Mayor Newhard.
At Village Hall there are plans to rebuild the front steps, seal the basement area, install a camera in the main area of the second floor and add a new copier.
At the Dept. of Public Works, an additional bay will be added to the rehabilitated pole barn at the central garage. New vehicles will be purchased including a dump truck with a plow and sander, a pick-up truck with a plow and a new tow-behind compressor.
Based on prior year funding, the Village is expecting nearly $130,000 from New York State as part of the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) for roadway projects.
In the Village parks there are plans to purchase equipment for park maintenance such as push mowers, weed wackers, etc. The parking lot near the football field in Veterans Memorial Park will be put in, a second walking bridge is planned for Stanley-Deming Park, and the Lewis Woodlands bridge is slated for repairs. Additionally, there are plans for design work for an enhanced skate park.
Drainage issues on Country Lane will also be addressed.
The application process for several grants totaling $345,500 has begun for such projects as sidewalks and curbs for High St.; parking lots in Memorial Park and on McFarland Dr. near the wooded walkway; surfacing material for the new playground at Stanley-Deming Park; NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) charging stations; a new bucket truck; courtroom improvements and grants for a new Greenway Comprehensive Plan and Orange County Arts. They also have a new comprehensive grant from the Hudson Valley Greenway and a grant from Orange County Tourism.
Water & Sewer Usage Rates
Newhard explained that the combined water and sewer land tax rates are typically kept at a 10% increase – some years the water rate will increase more, in others it is the sewer that increases depending on where the needs are for that budget year. However, the aggregate increase is kept around ten percent which is unchanged from last year.
For 2019-20, the water usage rates will increase 8% to aid with such projects as a village dam assessment; project design for the Well #3 purification system; and water line repairs to Oakland Ave., Barbara Dr., Kenilworth Ln., Sheffield Dr., and Robert Dr.
Additionally, there are several projects that need engineering plans and designs such as dam/reservoir improvements, water tanks, water line repairs and a pump station generator.
The sewer usage rates for the Sewer Fund will go up by 2% this year for an emergency generator at the Robin Brae pump station, Phase I of the new sewer plant upgrade and extensive engineering design work.
Vernieri further explained that the land taxes (water and sewer) have been in place for the past 20 years giving the Village the ability to buy equipment and pay for it over a short period of time as needed.
Mayor Thanks All Involved In Budget Process
Mayor Newhard thanked all those involved in the budget process particularly Village Treasurer Cathy Richards for her daily work with the Village finances, but especially during the budget process, and Village Accountant Michael Vernieri for his guidance.
Newhard also pointed out that, as an “old” village, there is always a project that needs to be done.
“We have to be diligent, we can’t rest…after the waste water treatment plant there will be something else. We don’t want to be straddled with debt for so long that we won’t be able to accomplish that next group of projects that need to be done,” Newhard stated.
Tax Levy Cap Override & Proposed Budget Both Approved
Following the public hearings, both the local law to override the tax levy cap and the proposed 2019-2020 budget were approved during the regular Board of Trustees meeting.
Next Board Meeting
The next Board meeting will be held on Mon., May 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Village Hall, located at 77 Main St. in Warwick.