BY LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — KEESEVILLE — The proposed 2013-14 budget for the Village of Keeseville stays well within the state’s 2 percent tax cap.
The $1.36 million budget has a tax levy of $403,970, which is about a 1 percent increase in the amount to be raised by taxes over last year.
Village officials say property owners whose assessments stayed the same as last year would also pay about the same amount in tax.
The tax rate of $7.50 per $1,000 is expected to stay the same, Village Mayor Dale Holderman said, because the village tax base increased over last year.
“We have done this with no tax increase to the residents, and with three years of no increase in the village tax rate.”
The public hearing on the budget is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, at the Village Hall.
Holderman said the budget process was complex and lengthy.
“The village trustees and I spent countless hours examining the budgets for the last three years. We dissected the budget from all the angles we could think of and came up with one that keeps costs and expenditures under control in the best interests of the village and also keeps those projects moving forward to make our community a better place.”
Village employees are in the budget for 3 percent raises, but there are no pay increases for elected officials.
“We found that our employees were lagging their (town) counterparts by quite a bit, and with the experience level and training that they have received, it was well deserved,” Holderman said.
“In a village, we have the unique situation of using our employees for many, many different tasks, and this gives our residents a bigger bang for their buck.”
He said the board has also decided to bring back the codes officer position to enforce village law and ordinances. The village had been using the Chesterfield and AuSable town codes officers.
Sewer fees have gone up, the mayor said, chiefly because of a drop in revenue when they went to metered rates three years ago.
“When the switch from non-metered rates to metered rates happened, it was incorrectly estimated. As metering took effect, the water usage in the village dropped drastically, and with it, so did revenues.
“As a direct result, sewer revenues also dropped dramatically.”
IN THE RED
Holderman said the sewer fund is now $90,000 in the red, so they had to increase rates.
“When I took office in April of last year, I was shocked to see that (deficit), and I began a in-depth look at both revenues and expenses.
“With the Board of Trustees’ help, we formulated a plan to dig out the sewer fund over the next three-year period, replenish spare parts and build a reserve fund to cover routine and unexpected breakdowns.”
The new rates have not been officially adopted, and the village will schedule a public hearing to take input and explain what happened, Holderman said.
If approved, the rates won’t take effect until June 1.
The sewer rates, billed quarterly, would be $59.25 for the first 9,000 gallons of usage inside the village and $99.25 outside the village. For every 1,000 gallons after the 9,000, the rates are $4.25 inside the village and $8.25 outside.
“This is an increase of $17.25 per quarter,” Holderman said. “We will be working hard to keep costs down.”
He said they would try to remove $10 of the increase as soon as possible.
Water fees are going up only slightly, 25 cents more per quarter, the mayor said.
“The water fund was in better shape as far as the expenses were concerned. We were able to keep expenses down to remain solvent in the fund. Now we are planning some upgrades and replacement of aging equipment, so we need a slight increase.”
The new water rates for village customers would be $51.50 per quarter for up to 9,000 gallons and $4.25 for each additional 1,000 gallons. The rates for customers living outside the village would be $102.75 per quarter for up to 9,000 gallons and $8 for each additional 1,000 gallons.
Voters approved dissolution of the village earlier this year, and it is slated to go out of existence on Dec. 31, 2014. A plan for how it would be handled must be passed by the Village Board, and the plan can be petitioned to a vote.
If that happens and voters reject the plan, the village would remain intact.
If the village dissolves, its functions and properties will be turned over to the two towns in which it is located, Chesterfield in Essex County and AuSable in Clinton County.
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