Council voting to change funding allocation

WELLSVILLE – The 50-50 revenue split from the approved half-percent income tax levy appears to be subject to change as more money may be going toward the police department.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Village Council approved, with a 4-2 vote, the first reading of an ordinance that would change how the revenue generated from the village’s half-percent income tax levy would be divided between police department and for pavement of roads.

Approved by village voters in November, the levy’s revenue distribution currently is split evenly, with 50 percent going to the police department for services, equipment and wages, and the other 50 toward paving of village roads. However, the new ordinance would now earmark 75 percent to the police department with 25 percent to roads.

Councilmen Randy Allmon, John Morrow, Bill Taft and Pinky Gill voted in favor of the amendment, while Karen Dash and Rosie Gibson voted against the move.

Mayor Nancy Murray first announced proposed plans to amend the income tax levy distribution during her report, saying the move is a recommendation of both the state auditor’s office and the state treasurer’s office. Such a move would help the village get out of fiscal emergency within a five-year time span, she explained.

“This will bring the deficit down in the general fund to $68,000,” Murray said. “With the sale of property, the Sky Bank property, that should balance our deficit by the end of the year, which the five-year forecast will be balanced and that will take us out of fiscal emergency.”

In a further explanation, village fiscal officer Hoi Black said after state auditors reviewed the five-year forecast, the prediction was by changing to the 75-25 split, along with the sale of the former Sky Bank building next door to Village Hall, the village’s deficit would be lowered by a great amount.

“Basically, with the change of the percentage showing in a five-year forecast, and as the state auditor has said before, a five-year forecast is just a forecast,” Black said. “However, what they’re showing is that the deficit would be lower by a great amount, and also with the sale of the property, the old Sky Bank, what they are predicting is if we change the percentage, it would give us positive balances for all funds at the end of five years.”

Murray and Black also explained police salary is paid out of the general fund, which also has the largest deficit of all village funds. Tthe general fund is currently running a $130,000 deficit.

“The 75 percent that goes in the police fund, the police pay out of the general fund, and that’s where it fixes the deficit because our biggest deficit is in the general fund,” Murray said.

“Those two funds (police income tax levy and street paving income tax levy) just track what the revenues are and where the expenditures go, so the 75 percent, since it goes into the police income tax levy, it has taken the expenditure from the general fund down from the general fund.”

Acknowledging not everyone on council would be in favor of the move, Allmon said the change would be beneficial for the village, echoing Murray and Black’s sentiments about getting out of fiscal emergency.

“The benefits from this, to me, outweigh anything,” Allmon said. “We could be out of fiscal emergency in five years if we change this, and if we sell this property across the street.”

Morrow said he had gone door-to-door and campaigned in favor of the 50-50 split, but also acknowledged that with more presentations and projections made during meetings with the village’s Financial Planning and Supervision Commission showing that the village’s financial picture would be worse, something had to be done.

Even though more money will go to the police department with this ordinance, Morrow said he village’s roads will still be done. Village officials also remain in negotiations with businesses with the Wellsville Intermodal Park to see if they are able to help with the roads, he said.

“We did talk a lot about splitting the money 50-50 when we were out campaigning, and as the election got closer, it seemed like with every fiscal emergency meeting we had, we were given a more dire forecast instead of a better one,” Morrow said. “We need to get out of fiscal emergency. Changing this to a 75-25 from 50-50 doesn’t mean the streets are not going to get repaired. There’s still money going to be coming in, going to be specifically into a paving fund. That’s not changing.”

Dash, however, does not believe the distribution of funds should change, believing it should remain evenly split as campaigned upon. It was the same stance she took in December when the 75-25 split was first mentioned and ultimately turned down.

“I realize that the state is making this recommendation, but the state people are not going to be in the Save-A-Lot or up the street saying to John Smith, ‘Sorry, we went and campaigned,’ and now three months into the collection of this, we’re already changing it,” Dash said. “To me, it’s your classic politician bait-and-switch, and I just cannot vote in favor of this.

“And the five-year forecast … that can change tomorrow, that can change next year. It’s a forecast, like a weather forecast.”

Morrow also pointed out money is going into line items set up for each provision, and added it can be changed by council at any time at its discretion.

Allmon also pointed out the reason he requested to go only into first reading – as opposed to suspend council’s normal three-reading rules and adopt that night – was for the public to address council if they are dissatisfied with the decision.

“I know a lot of times we put things on third and final reading, but the reason why I went on first reading was because if anyone has a problem with this, or with us doing this, they’re more than welcome to come and present us in a proper way at council,” Allmon said.

Council has two more readings before the ordinance is adopted. The next reading is anticipated to take place at the next council meeting, scheduled 6 p.m. March 20.