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Guest Column: Mayor Keith T. Pierce
“No tax increase”
It's that wonderful time of year again when the flowers and trees bloom, the robins return, and of course the Village Board wrestles with the budget for the year. It's not a fun task, but I and the other board members take it very seriously.
I am happy to inform you all that again, in 2012, there will be no tax increase. It was the mission of the board and myself -- in light of the ever-increasing cost of living, especially on our seniors -- to not raise taxes, and we were able to do that. It was not easy considering the 18% projected increase in health-care benefits resulting from the requirements found in the "Obama Care" program. Our fuel costs have also gone up dramatically, which makes it extremely difficult to do projections for this year.
Some of you may be wondering how we are able to keep our taxes where they are. The Village has what is called an unappropriated fund balance. Any time there is money left over from any given budget line, that money goes into this fund. The Village is required by law to have a certain amount (approximately 1/3 of our total budget) in that fund at all times. The Village, due to years of careful planning and cost-saving measures, has more than what we need in that account. We chose to use some of that money to offset any tax increase.
Because of years of fiscally responsible budgeting, we are able to purchase a new one-ton dump truck this year as well as a new mower, both highly need items, and both purchased through saved monies and no tax increase. These saved monies come from areas like snow removal and road salt, neither of which were used much this year. The truck purchase is the result of years of saving roughly six thousand dollars per year for that purchase. The Board has decide to pay for half the truck now and finance the remainder of the cost over four years. This option made the most sense, choosing not to totally deplete that fund balance. The mower will also be paid for out of money saved over last year's budget.
Just because we are not raising the taxes doesn't mean things won't continue to improve within the Village. We are very close to obtaining the land near our viaduct from the County. As soon as we do, improvements to that area will begin. I hope to have the entire area cleaned out and make it possible for people to stroll through it and see what natural beauty we have to offer.
Within a matter of weeks, the buildings next to the Dandy are scheduled to come down -- both the old VTO and the house behind it. While it will be sad for many of us to see these buildings come down, it's a step that has to take place in order for us to move forward as a Village. As a history buff, it's especially difficult for me to see the VTO building come down. There has been so much history that has taken place there and it has been a part of our Village from nearly the beginning, but time waits for no man and we must look to the future and leave something better for the generations to come.
Another plan for this summer is the resurfacing of some of our more dilapidated streets. First Street will get a fresh covering, and hopefully get a little wider. Merchant Avenue will also see some repairs. We will also continue to improve the area around our DPW Garage. That department, under the leadership of Mark Candido, has made great strides in bringing this area up to a level worthy of our Village. There will also be many tree plantings this year to make up for the trees we have needed to remove over the last few years. The replacement tree we have discussed is the Sand Cherry. It is an easily maintainable tree which has nice white flowers in the spring and purple leaves throughout the summer. I would also remind you to watch for our annual Spring Clean Up Day. This year it will be held on April 14th. This has become a huge hit within our Village, with many people taking advantage of the on-site waste removal.
The toughest area of our budget is, and will likely always be, our water system. As I have explained in the past, when our system was installed, the bond was constructed in such a way as to depend on an increased number of users over the life of the bond. That has not been the case. Therefore we all must bear that burden of the bond payment going up each year. Knowing that, we will be raising water rates for the 2012 budget. It's not a lot, but in this day and age every little bit counts. The good news is that 2013 will be the last year that the payment goes up. After that, we can finally start going the other way.
In closing, I would like to thank the two trustees who are leaving our board this year. Peggy Tomassi is leaving us after serving eight years. Peggy has been a great asset to the board as well as to myself. She was always pushing me to look at the other side of every issue and not get caught up in the my-way-or-the-highway mentality. We didn't always agree, but I never doubted that she had the best interests of our Village residents at heart. Thank you, Peggy! Tim Hicks will also be leaving us this year. Tim has been on the board for four years, and has also been a great asset to Odessa. He's wise beyond his years and always had the answers to all the tough technical questions we may have had. Tim was always the one I would call when I was really frustrated with a decision and couldn't get my head wrapped around the issue Tim's plate has been filled with the addition of his new son, but I don't think we've seen the last of him. Tim has too much of a love for his community to stay away long. Thank you, Tim!
With that said, I am looking forward to 2012 in Odessa. I think it's going to be a big year for us with many, albeit small, improvements. I look forward to working with both of the individuals running for the vacant seats on the board. Both will bring a unique set of qualities that will do nothing but help us move forward. I thank you all again for your support.
Keith T. Pierce
Village Board members
Pictured below, from left: Mayor Keith Pierce and Village Board Trustees Peggy Tomassi, Timothy Hickis, Robin Thoman and Shawn Crane.
Mayor: Keith Pierce
Trustees: Peggy Tomassi, Robin Thoman, Shawn Crane, Timothy Hicks
Village Clerk: Kristi Pierce, 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-2100
Department of Public Works: Mark Candido
Village Justice: Ronald Goossen
Municipal Building: 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-3792
Dutton S. Peterson Memorial Library: 106 First St., Odessa, 5942791
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Thomas Gifford, Dennis Fagan, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone
Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967
Doris L. Karius, 546-5544
Barbara Halpin, 594-3683
Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385
Thomas Gifford, Montour Falls
Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen
Stewart Field, Reading Center
County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133
Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222
Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222
County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181
District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383
State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County
Sen. Charles E. Schumer
United States Senate
United States Senate
U.S. Rep. Tom Reed
United States House of Representatives
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 415, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend
-- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869