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Guest Column: Mayor Keith T. Pierce
“Taxes are going up”
ODESSA, March 21, 2013 -- I want to thank all of you who came out this week to vote in the village elections. It was a good turnout considering all seats were uncontested. It will be my honor to be your mayor for another two years.
Another important happening in our village will take place next month: the official adoption of this year’s budget. You all know that I have always been proud of the fact that the Village of Odessa has not raised taxes in many, many years and that we have always prided ourselves on having a substantial unreserved fund balance on hand to take care of any unforeseen problems. Due to economic difficulties beyond our control, things are changing. For the first time in at least the eight years I've been part of the board, we must raise the village taxes. We have been forced to increase them by approximately 4%, which will create about $6,000 in increased revenues for the village. The only reason we can go above the 2% tax cap is because we did not use the 2% in last year’s budget, allowing us to use it this year. The silver lining in this, if there is any, is that for the first time in many years, we will not have to raise any of the water rates.
I think the best way to explain why this tax increase is necessary is to put it in the simplest terms I know: "Everything" goes downhill. The State can't afford everything it's doing, so it passes along costs to the counties to pick up. Then the counties can't pass their budgets, so they pass it on to the towns. The last step, you guessed it, is the villages. This year, Schuyler County could not pass a budget that would not include a huge tax increase. To close some of that gap, it proposed that the towns pitch in and cover some of the fees Schuyler County distributes as its share of tuition payments for students in the county who attend community colleges in the state. Not all of the townships were excited about that plan because they would be paying more than some of the other towns. Plan B presented by the county was withholding a portion of the sales tax revenues that are annually disbursed to the towns and villages. Their suggestion was to withhold 4%. The towns, put in a position to decide between one or the other, chose plan B -- which goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014. (That directly affects the village in the last five months of its fiscal year. The towns will, in the interim, be paying into the community college system.) What the sales-tax reduction means for the village is a loss of $6,000 in the upcoming budget. If that number sounds familiar, it’s the amount we garnered by raising your village taxes by 4%.
You may be saying, well, that doesn't sound like much; it’s only a one-time thing. I don't think that's the case. In my opinion this is only the first step in the towns and villages losing all of the sales tax revenues. The case is being set up already. In a recent article in the Watkins Review, a member of the Legislature was quoted as saying that our neighbors in Yates County do not receive any of the tax revenues created in that county. That's as good as saying get ready, towns and villages; the days of sharing tax revenues are at an end.
At some point, this "pass it on down the line" mentality of budgeting has got to change. The county saves a few percentage points in its budget, but those few points come back up in our budget. It looks like the county is saving you money while we are charging you more. What everyone seems to not understand is that money comes out of the same pocket, yours and mine. Taxes are taxes, regardless of where we send the check.
There are two ways to keep taxes down: create more revenue or cut expenses. We at the village have cut the expenses as far as we possibly can. Our best hope is to create more revenue. I believe we can do that. At the present time, there are two new houses going up in the village. This type of activity creates new revenues in the form of expanded tax base and increased water customers. I believe we can continue this kind of growth by making Odessa the type of village in which people want to raise their children. If we continue to improve our "green areas" and beautify our village, I believe that the word will get out and we will continue to see our village grow in a reasonable fashion.
We are still moving forward with the exploration of installing sewer and natural gas in the Village. These two things alone would be a huge drawing card for us. The natural gas alone has the potential of cutting heating costs by as much as 50%, and the sewer system could be all we need to return Main Street to a more business-friendly area.
In closing, I want to thank you all again for allowing me to be your mayor for another two years. I will continue to work toward keeping Odessa a place we can all be proud of. I know it’s difficult to stay positive these days with all the negative news coming out of Washington and Albany, but I truly believe that our best days are still to come in Odessa. Let's keep the faith and keep moving forward!
Keith T. Pierce
Note: To reach the Odessa government page, click here.
Village Board members
Pictured below, from left: Mayor Keith Pierce and Village Board Trustees Robin Thoman, Shawn Crane, Thomas Letteer Jr. and Sally Hill.
Mayor: Keith Pierce
Trustees: Robin Thoman, Shawn Crane, Thomas Letteer, Sally Hill
Village Clerk: Kristi Pierce, 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-2100
Department of Public Works: Steven Siptrott
Village Justice: Ronald Goossen
Municipal Building: 300 E. Main St., Odessa, 594-2100, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Dutton S. Peterson Memorial Library: 106 First St., Odessa, 594-2791
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