Tax Rate Remains Unchanged

By Jann Wiswall

The Mansfield Town Board was guided through a line-by-line review of a draft 2014 budget prepared by Supervisor Bob Keis at its meeting on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. Board members were pleased with the draft and with the fact that the town will not increase its tax rate of $4.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

During the review, which compared the 2014 proposed budget to the 2012 actual and 2013 budgets, Keis noted that 2012 and 2013 were unusual budget years due to the fire that destroyed the Town Highway Garage in October 2012. Insurance payments, purchases of replacement equipment and the costs of rebuilding the new garage skewed many budget figures in both budgets. Keis assured the board that those expenses and revenues were carefully accounted for and will be resolved by the end of 2013 when the final insurance settlement should be completed.

The 2014 proposed budget for the general fund is $340,453, compared to $403,647 in 2012 (due to insurance recoveries) and $308,950 in 2013. The difference over 2013 is primarily due to a large mandated increase in town payments into the county Workers Compensation Fund and new debt service.

Revenues for 2014 are budgeted to cover those additional expenses, primarily through property tax and mortgage tax generated from new homes and renovations that are under construction and will be added to the tax rolls in 2014.

For the highway department, projected expenses for 2014 will be $751,633, compared to $670,469 in 2013 and $823,532 in 2012. The highway budget was, of course, most impacted by the fire, so comparing years is especially skewed here. The bulk of the increase over 2013 is for a replacement vehicle lease. Revenues will cover the increase, primarily from further insurance recoveries and an anticipated increase in State Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) Aid. There was no increase to budget appropriations for snow removal materials such as salt or sand.

The board approved a $.35/hour salary increase for four highway department employees, which will be reflected in the 2014 budget.

Keis noted that he expects that new tax revenue as a result of HoliMont’s WestMont Ridge development will allow the board to increase funding for the highway department by the 2015 budget.

“The highway budget is a priority for me,” Keis said, “and I hope the board will agree.”

In other business, Mansfield resident Harry Knodt attended the meeting to ask the board to install street lights in two locations in the Village of Eddyville. He proposed lights near the entrance to the Mansfield Municipal Building and at the triangle intersection of Route 14 and California Hill Road. Knodt had collected signatures and comments on a petition from nine other residents who collectively believed the lights would improve safety and security in the area.

The board members agreed that streetlights would be a worthwhile improvement and asked Supervisor Keis to obtain estimates and other information for presentation at the October board meeting.

The board also finalized plans for an Open House at the new Highway Garage on Saturday, Oct. 5, from 2–4 p.m. All Mansfield and other area residents will be invited through advertisements in Mansfield’s official newspaper, the Ellicottville Times, and another local newspaper. The board especially hoped that the many area firefighters and law enforcement officers who responded to the fire last October would attend, along with area municipal leaders who offered so much help to the town during the first critical months of winter 2012-13.

The next meeting of the Mansfield Town Board will be held on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. A Public Hearing on the proposed 2014 budget will be held at that time. All residents are encouraged to attend.