By Jann Wiswall

Jacobson Appointed to Planning Board

The Town of Mansfield’s board opened bids for municipal lawn mowing services at its Monday, April 17 meeting. Four proposals were received to mow three cemeteries and the grounds of the town hall, historical building and highway barn.The low bid was from Westside Handyman & Lawn Service of Mansfield – the company that performed the service last year. Town Supervisor Bob Keis said the company was reliable and did a good job in 2016. The bid of $2,195.85 was accepted.

The board also appointed Tim Jacobson, owner of Mansfield Arms & Ammo, to the Town Planning Board. Jacobson will fill the seat held by Tracey Hamlett, who resigned from the planning board last month. Jacobson was the only town resident to express interest in the position.

Keis shared information provided by the NY Association of Towns (AOT) regarding a new state-wide initiative establishing a “countywide shared services property tax savings plan (countywide plan).” Under the plan, all counties must develop a plan to reduce property taxes “by instituting initiatives such as eliminating duplicative services, implementing shared services, reducing back-office administrative overhead and better coordinating services.”

The countywide plan follows several years of efforts by the state to require individual municipalities to find ways to share services between towns and villages.

Only “new and recurring” savings will be eligible to be included in the countywide plan, so shared service agreements already in place do not qualify.

According to the AOT, county chief executives will chair a shared services panel made up of all town supervisors, village and city mayors and representatives from municipal collective bargaining units. Plans will be developed by the chair based on the panel’s input and submitted to the county legislature, which can make recommendations that may or may not result in a revised plan. The entire process, which includes at least three public hearings and a public presentation, must be completed by Oct. 15.

Keis commented that finding additional savings through shared services in a small town such as Mansfield will be very difficult. Mansfield, which like several other towns in Cattaraugus County does not have a village, a school district or a business district, has few options for sharing services. “The highway department shares equipment with other municipalities, but that’s been going on for years,” he said.

“The state doesn’t seem to realize that, at the town level, we’re closest to our taxpayers and they know we’re not throwing money around. We’re not being wasteful; we just don’t have much else we can share.”

With this initiative, Keis suggested that, “the governor is implying that we’re not being diligent and already looking at every line item.”

With that said, the board brainstormed ideas and acknowledged the difficulty of the challenge. Keis said he would attend panel meetings, listen to ideas and report back to the board.

He also opined that it would make more sense for the state to have a “Class 1 and Class 2 structure based on population.” Large towns of 10,000 or more, he said, “have more employees, bureaucracy and services that can be considered.” Small towns like Mansfield, with only 400 full-time residents, “has just five full-time employees and a few part-time people,” many of whom work other jobs.

Highway Department Report

Highway Superintendent Brad Hurley reported that one of his employees is out with an injury that occurred while on the job. It is unclear how long he will be out.

He also reported that NY State funds for municipal highway improvements (e.g. CHIPS and Pave NY) will total $184K thanks to the reinstatement of a “winter recovery plan.” The town had budgeted for $129K in state contributions. The extra will be used exclusively for road repair.

The board approved Hurley’s recommendation to lease a new loader from John Deere for three years at $13,468 per year. The old loader will be traded in as part of the lease deal.

The next meeting of the Mansfield board is scheduled for May 15 at 7 p.m. in the town hall. All are welcome.