Village of Cazenovia
Developing annual budgets for the municipalities and schools in a community is a challenging process. Elected leaders and the professional staff members who assist them strive to understand the (often conflicting) needs and desires of all their constituents and to craft realistic plans for revenues and expenditures that balance those interests. We try to keep taxes as low as possible while also providing essential and desired services to residents and fairly compensating our public employees.
Public input is an important part of the process and helps civic leaders to understand the preferences and priorities of their constituents. It’s important to recognize, however, that the input received is typically extremely diverse. The program or service you are passionately advocating to increase may simultaneously be opposed by another citizen with a different view.
Communicating with those actually engaged in the process is the surest way to obtain accurate, up-to-date and in-context information about budgets that are typically very fluid as they are being created. Public officials are often responding in real time to new information about needs and resources.
The Village of Cazenovia presented its proposed budget at a public hearing on April 2. The budget is a product of all the factors described above and the board voted unanimously to adopt it based on their belief that it fairly balances the many competing inputs from the process. The $2,943,850 spending plan is approximately $196,000 or 7 percent larger than last year’s budget.
That is a larger increase than we would have liked but there is an important context — $170,000 of the $196,000 increase is in one budget line to address a critical shortfall in capital savings to keep our fire apparatus up to date. Careful review of the long-term plan revealed that shifts in costs and replacement schedules had added up over time, creating a potential deficit in the future when important replacements would be needed. Minus that one line, the rest of the budget is up less than one percent from 2017.
The good news is that, even with that essential but significant increase, the tax rate will only increase by 1 percent (to $5.98 per $1,000 of assessed value). Economic growth, which the village has worked to carefully cultivate in recent years, helped to yield substantially improved revenues even with the smallest increase in the tax rate in more than a decade.
The total taxable assessed value of the village increased by over $3 million for the second year in a row (after many years of growth in the $1 million per year range). Even larger improvements are slated for the year ahead. Growth in sales tax was especially favorable, allowing us to budget an increase of over 6 percent for that revenue category with increases in the most recent quarter pointing to even better performance when all the numbers are in.
One topic of discussion as the budget was being crafted was the amount to be spent on law enforcement and the role of the village in school safety. Our local police force is an important resource to keep our community safe and the budget provides for an increase of approximately 8.3 percent in this essential area (not including health or retirement costs which are in a separate part of the budget).
We have a close working relationship with the school and the safety of our children is our highest priority. That being said, planning for new approaches to school safety is within the purview of the school board. The costs of any new approaches which might be adopted by the school would appropriately be borne by all residents of the district, not solely by village taxpayers, who comprise a minority of the CCSD population.
Setting aside my “mayor hat” for a moment and speaking as a 22-year veteran staff member of the Cazenovia schools, I would also like to convey my confidence in the safety of our learning environment at CCS. I spend every day teaching, coaching and mentoring young people in our school without a moment of apprehension about their safety.
Despite the unsettling events in the headlines in recent months, facts and statistics bear out the observation that schools are among the safest places that children can be. In addition, CCS is deeply committed to ongoing improvement in that area, a process that is not a short-term reaction to recent events, but part of a comprehensive approach that has been going on for over three years.
Please know that our school community views our children as our greatest treasure and we are all deeply committed to their safety.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.
Feb 18, 2019
Feb 18, 2019
Feb 18, 2019
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