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Farnham Village Board discusses grant writing, department of public works numbers

FARNHAM — For another year, taxes in the village of Farnham will not be going up. They will also not be going down, the Farnham Village Board announced, during a budget work session at its March meeting.

During that evening, the board went through the tentative budget, line by line, allowing each board member to offer comments, air concerns and ask questions.

There were a few points of contention along the way, most notably when it came to grant preparation, department of public works full time and DPW contractual.

Trustee Yvonne Heller brought up the grant preparation fee that is paid to Mayor Julie Gibbons for writing grants. Heller questioned not the amount, but the fact that she said she felt the mayor does not write proper grants for the village.

“What grants?” Heller said. “You’ve taken [former Mayor] Terry’s [Caber] grants and substituted dates. You have not been writing grants start to finish.”

“Who do you think looks into preparing the grants and figuring out whether or not they are something that would be applicable and available to the village,” Gibbons responded. “Who reviews them? I also took a $400 cut in grant preparation, two years ago. And, in order for those grants to [be] submitted, they need to have updated, current information, year after year.”

Trustee George Cordia suggested that the village explore the cost of employing a grant writer, down the road. “It’s something I feel we have to look into,” he said.

“If this money is going to be given to the mayor for not writing any grants, then it should be for grant preparation,” Heller added. “I think it’s misleading. Even one grant a year is better than none.”

In another matter, the board also addressed a request for an increase in DPW full time.

“For department of public works full time, we had a request for a $2,078 increase annually, which works out to be a $1 an hour, plus an increase of $200 in medical insurance stipend,” Gibbons said. “Last year, DPW full time received a 1.5 percent increase and has at least a 3 percent increase every year, since he has worked here – almost every year. We are now at the point that, if we continue increasing one individual’s salary over $1,000 every year, we are going to come to a point where we can’t do it anymore. I’m asking that we do a 2 percent increase.”

Gibbons pointed out that DPW contractual is already over budget, with two months left to go in the current fiscal year.

“This account currently has been at $8,000 and we are over budget already this year,” Gibbons said. “That means we are going to have pull monies from contingency to cover the over expense and still have two months left.

“I’m asking to increase DPW contractual to $10,000, and am also going to ask we have more regulation on spending,” she added. “We should have some type of system that shows anticipated expenses per month. I find it hard to believe that we are spending $10,000, but fuel costs are high I know.”

“It seems like every year there is something big that we end up having to throw in there,” Trustee Jere Hoisington said. “Last year, it was all of the fiber material we had to put underneath the playground and this year, it’s all of the blacktop sealing.”

“We put $38,000 a year into these reserve accounts for DPW equipment, buildings and grounds, village hall and fire department, parking lots, fire trucks, ambulance, $38,000 a year towards building a bigger and better Farnham,” Gibbons said. “That’s a lot of money and we still have no tax increase.”

Gibbons added that next year might not be any better.

“I really wouldn’t count on it,” she said. “What Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo’s program is trying to accomplish is eliminating villages. With what they’re working on, it’s going to be financially impossible to give raises, to increase reserves – to do anything basically.”

“I was hoping to decrease taxes this year, but I do not think we are going to be able to. The village of Farnham, of the 16 villages in Erie County, we have the highest tax rate. If someone wants to take this budget and show me a way to lower taxes, be my guest.”

No action on the budget was taken.

In other board news:

– The board congratulated Hoisington (four-year term) and Vinny Rovnak (four-year term) on winning their recent trustee elections.

– The village is currently seeking a replacement for Rovnak on the zoning board. Those interested were asked to contact the village hall.

The village board will next discuss the 2014 – 2015 budget at a budget workshop on Tuesday, April 8, after its annual re-organizational meeting at 7:30 p.m.

A public hearing regarding the budget will be held at 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 15, during the board’s next regular meeting, which will begin at 7:30.

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