By Jann Wiswall

The Town of Mansfield’s board renewed its municipal insurance policy at its meeting on Monday, July 18, and is considering adding cyber coverage to protect residents’ data.

The approved policy covers all town property, employee benefits, equipment, vehicles, crime and public official liability. The cost of the annual policy is up $393 over last year, primarily because of new vehicles.

The cyber policy would provide $50,000 toward expenses resulting from a data breach of town electronic and paper files. The cost would be about $330 per year.

As Randy Glenn, account executive with the Evans Agency, explained, the policy would cover the cost (up to $50,000) of providing credit monitoring for individuals whose personal data is stolen. He also said that the insurer would provide the town with guidance to make sure it has the appropriate mechanisms in place to help prevent such theft.

Glenn said it costs an average of $270 per person/year to provide data/credit monitoring of a stolen Social Security number, credit card or other private information. The policy covers theft of data from a computer database, a physical file cabinet or a piece of correspondence that is in the town’s possession.

The hard-copy data theft coverage is a new feature of the policy this year.

The board will make a decision once Glenn gets back to them with an exact annual cost for the policy.

County Assessor Department

Town Supervisor Bob Keis informed the board that Cattaraugus County is considering taking municipal assessment in-house, potentially as soon as in 2018. Currently each municipality has its own part-time assessor, and most are appointed to eight year terms. Many are coming to the end of their terms in 2018 and many are planning on retiring, which could leave some municipalities without any trained assessors at all. Bringing the role into the county (within the department of real property services) would make the positions full-time and more structured, would provide oversight and management that does not currently exist and would allow the county to bring in and train new assessors for the future.

Fiscal Stress

Keis also informed the board that the state’s annual “fiscal stress assessment” of Mansfield has improved slightly but the town is still considered to be “susceptible to fiscal stress.”

Keis explained that this is due to the fact that the town has been forced to rely on fund balance appropriations (using reserve funds) since the 2012 Highway Barn fire put the town into debt for the first time in many years. The state recommends that municipalities maintain 15-20% of their budget in a fund balance for emergencies, he said.

The town had expected to see property tax revenues increase as a result of new construction by now (particularly at HoliMont’s WestMont Ridge), which would have alleviated some of the pressure on its finances, but that project has slowed. While some other revenue streams have increased (state highway funds and total property assessments), sales tax revenue has fallen off and the Canadian dollar continues to negatively impact the WNY economy.

Keis said that, given these stressors, it may be necessary next year for the board to override the state tax cap and increase the tax levy.

Keis said he would prepare a ‘test’ budget that does not use any fund balance to see where things stand and report back to the board.

Senior Citizen Exemption

Cattaraugus County provides tax exemptions to senior citizens age 65 and over within certain income brackets to help reduce their county tax burdens. In May, the legislature voted to add two new income levels and exemption percentages to the program.

Each municipality in the county must amend their current local law in order to offer the same exemption for local (and school) taxes. The Mansfield board approved a motion to modify the law.

Bridge NY

Finally, Keis announced that new state funds are being allocated through Governor Cuomo’s “Bridge NY” program to help local governments rehabilitate and repair bridges and culverts over the next two years. Keis said he and Highway Superintendent Brad Hurley will be submitting a funding application for repair of Mansfield Bridge #32 on Kent Road.  Applications are due September 9.

The next meeting of the Mansfield board is scheduled for Monday, August 15 at 7 p.m. in the town hall. All are welcomed.