Water pressures pump up village spending

CHATHAM – The Chatham Village Board met for a public hearing on the 2018-19 proposed budget on Thursday, April 5. A few members of the public came out with questions about the budget document, which is broken down by departments and available for review on the village’s website.

The board is proposing a total $2.1 million budget with the general fund–which includes the Police and Fire departments and street maintenance–at $1.2 million. There is a separate water budget of $498,893.55 and sewer of $483,395.15. This proposed budget is a slight increase from the current budget, so the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property is going up about 4 cents. The tax rates in the proposed budget for village residents in the Town of Chatham is $6.47 per $1,000 and in Town of Ghent it’s $5.50 according to the budget document the board presented.

“The tax rate for the Village of Chatham is determined by dividing the tax levy by the total assessed property value of all taxable properties in the village, as assessed by the Towns of Ghent and Chatham,” says a note on the budget worksheet.

Village budgets run from June to May.

Mayor Tom Curran stressed at the meeting that the budget is still a “fluid document” until the board approves a final version at the end of this month. The board has several workshops planned: on April 11 the board will meet with the Department of Public Works about the streets and snow removal budget lines and the water and sewer budgets at 6 p.m.; on April 18 they will meet to discuss the rest of the general fund budget lines including funding for the fire company and the police, also at 6 p.m.; and there is a tentative budget meeting set for April 25 at noon. The public can continue to make comments on the budget throughout the process, the mayor said.

One big issue the board will be dealing with in this budget is a deficit in the water and sewer budgets.

“We still have a deficit and we’re still anticipating an increase to cover it,” the mayor said of residents’ water and sewer bills. He said that property owners should look for that increase to take effect this summer.

The village is moving forward with a $1.1-million project to put a water tank where the reservoir is now. Though the village received a state grant for almost half the cost of the project, the board still has to issue bonds to fund the total cost of construction. Bids for the work were opened last month and at the time the mayor said they came in higher than expected.

“Everything goes up,” Trustee Lenore Packet said of the costs to run the department.

John Howe, who asked the board several questions about the budget during the meeting, asked about money from village reserves. He said the state comptroller might say at some point that the village retains too much in reserve funds. “That concerns me a little bit,” he said.

Maureen Howe asked if the fund balance could be used to offset the water and sewer bill increase. Village Treasurer Barbara Henry said, “I don’t think so.”

Mr. Howe commended the board for their work on the budget. “It’s not easy to get it under the tax cap,” he said.

Mayor Curran thanked the village department heads, saying they “have really been conservative.”

Ms. Henry said of the budget process, “I think it’s transparent and that’s what I want to be.”

Information about the meetings will be on the village’s website at www.villageofchatham.com and the village Facebook page.

The next regular Village Board meeting will be May 10 at 7 p.m.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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