By Jann Wiswall
The Mansfield board of directors is developing a plan for the state that demonstrates how it could save 1% of the town’s $520,000 operating budget – or $5,200 – in each of the years 2017-2019.
Municipalities all over New York are being asked by the state to devise these “government efficiency plans.” If they don’t submit plans by June 1, qualifying homeowners will not receive their municipality’s share of property tax reimbursements.
Qualified homeowners are those who meet the state’s STAR exemption requirements.
Last year, homeowners living in jurisdictions that stayed within the 2% tax cap received corresponding percentage refunds. This year, municipalities must stay within that tax cap and also show how they will save costs by consolidating services with other jurisdictions in order for homeowners to receive reimbursement.
As Supervisor Bob Keis explained to the board at its Monday, April 20 meeting, the state must approve each jurisdiction’s plan; approved plans will not have to be implemented precisely as described as long as the savings are realized.
Keis said he has been researching options and is confident that the town’s recent agreement with the Village and Town of Ellicottville to provide sewer and water services at WestMont Ridge will qualify under the state’s criteria as an inter-municipal agreement. Under that shared service agreement, WestMont’s single-family home and condominium owners will be serviced (and billed) by the Ellicottville municipalities. If not for that agreement, Mansfield would have to construct those systems – which would be well beyond its financial capability.
Keis said he is still researching the issue and will provide a draft document to the board at its May meeting.
Under the same state efficiency plan, fire districts also may submit cost-saving plans to ensure that homeowners receive credit for a portion of their fire district tax. Keis notified the board that Ellicottville’s Fire Chief Kevin Morton recently proposed that it “annex” certain parts of Mansfield that borders Ellicottville for fire coverage. Morton provided a map showing proposed coverage areas – which would include WestMont Ridge as well as properties along other parts of Rt. 242, Hencoop Rd. and Maples Rd.
Morton stated that Ellicottville is closest to these areas so would arrive on scene well before the Mansfield Fire Department could get there.
Keis agreed with the second point – also noting that Ellicottville’s department is far larger and better equipped than Mansfield’s – however he did not agree with the proposed map, which was drawn along roadways rather than property lines. He also did not agree with the concept of annexation. Instead, he suggests that the agreement should be contractual.
Board members asked if this arrangement would result in fewer tax dollars for Mansfield’s fire department. Keis said “Yes, fire district taxes for affected homeowners would go to Ellicottville.” However, he said that this is a public safety and protection issue; if people will be better served by a fire department that can provide better response time, then everyone benefits.
Keis said he will discuss the proposal further with Morton and the board and hopes to have the issue settled by the end of the year.
Highway Department Report
The Mansfield Highway Department will be advertising bid requests for tiling the office, restrooms and break room floors of its building on Maples Rd. Specifications will appear soon in the town’s official newspaper, The Ellicottville Times.
Department Superintendent Brad Hurley reported that he had received four bids for used rollers. The board accepted the low bid of $45,500 from George Swede Sales & Service.
Hurley also is in search of a used 10-wheeler not to exceed $34,500.
Hurley and Keis reported that this year’s CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program) contribution from the state was $23,000 more than the town had budgeted due to the especially harsh winter and its impact on road conditions. This brings the total to $152,000 for 2015.
The next meeting of the Mansfield board will be held on Monday, May 18 at 7 p.m. in the town hall. All are welcome.