Fire Protection Districts Approved
By Jann Wiswall
The Town of Mansfield’s board held a public hearing on the preliminary 2016 budget on Monday, Oct. 19. With no one present to comment, the board closed the hearing and approved the budget as final.
The final budget shows projected revenues for 2016 as $361,245 for the general fund (compared to $352,845 in 2015) and $794,628 for the highway department (compared to $966,927 in 2015 – which included FEMA monies). Projected expenses in each category are the same to balance the budget.
The general fund expense budget is an increase of $8,000 over 2015, due primarily to increases in workers’ compensation and property insurance costs. The board did not budget raises for itself, the supervisor and some other non-highway employees for 2016.
The budget shows an increase of about $15,000 to the highway budget to cover salt cost increases and a one percent salary increase for department staff for 2016, by significantly reducing the highway machinery budget for the coming year. In addition, costs for state retirement are projected to be lower in 2016 than in the past few years.
Since 2013, the tax rate per thousand dollars of assessed property value in Mansfield has been $4.75. For 2016, the board proposes to reduce that figure to $4.73 per thousand.
New Fire Districts Formed
As reported in July, the town of Mansfield has been working with the Ellicottville Fire Department (EFD), its commissioner and the Board of Fire Commissioners to create a new fire protection district that will be covered by the EFD.
Currently, about two-thirds of Mansfield is covered by its own fire department. The other third is covered by the Little Valley Fire Department.
In practice, however, when an emergency occurs in Mansfield areas near Ellicottville, the EFD usually arrives on scene before the Mansfield FD due to its distance and the fact that the MFD is much smaller and has fewer volunteers.
The new district abuts the border of Ellicottville and is physically several miles closer to the Ellicottville Fire Hall than it is to the Mansfield Fire Hall.
The intent of the agreement is to provide faster emergency fire response in this area.
Roughly speaking, the area to be covered by the EFD includes Ellicottville Maples Road to Hencoop Hollow, up Watson to Windsor, Windsor to Rt. 242 and back into Ellicottville.
Properties with street addresses on both sides of each boundary road are included in the new district.
An official map of the area will be shared with the community once contracts are finalized by the end of 2015 and will be posted at each fire hall, the Mansfield Town Hall, the Mansfield Highway Department and elsewhere as needed.
Ambulance service in Mansfield is covered by two ambulance services – Little Valley and Ellicottville/Great Valley. The dividing line is California Hill-Reed Hill, which divides the town roughly in half from north to south. Residents to the west are covered by Little Valley; to the east by EVGV. No changes to ambulance districts are being proposed.
Meanwhile, Mansfield’s Supervisor Bob Keis has calculated fire taxes for the new EFD district.
Ellicottville property owners currently pay less fire tax ($.53 per $1000 of assessed property value) than do Mansfield property owners, who pay $.87/$1000. The new Ellicottville fire district property owners will be taxed at the same rate as Ellicottville property owners.
Because fewer properties will be paying into the other two Mansfield fire districts, those property owners may pay a few cents more than they have in the past (but no more than 2% more). Those calculations have not yet been finalized.
The board approved the new fire protection maps as shown during its Oct. meeting, and authorized Keis to have final maps drawn and sign two-year contracts with the three fire departments.
In other business, Keis reported that the State Division of the Budget has approved the government efficiency plan submitted by the town in July. The plan demonstrates how the town can save one percent of its operating budget by consolidating services with other municipalities.
Mansfield teamed with the town and village of Ellicottville to show how their inter-municipal agreement for water and sewer service at WestMont Ridge (which is in Mansfield) meets the state’s criteria for consolidation.
The plan now must be approved by the State Department of Taxation and Finance.
The next meeting of the Mansfield town board will be held on Monday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.