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Guest Column: Mayor Keith T. Pierce

“Another favorable budget ... and get out to vote”

ODESSA, March 20, 2017 -- Last week, the Odessa Village board met for the second time to finalize our budget numbers for the 2017 budget. I am very pleased to report that your Village government has again come up with a budget that keeps your taxes the same as last year or lower.

When the figures all come in, we have projected that we will actually finish the year under budget on the expense side but also will have a slight shortfall in the revenues received side. Due to County assessment changes, some people will see an increase in their individual tax bills while others may actually see a decrease. The Village is actually lowering our tax rate from $6.43 to $6.34 per 1,000 of assessed value. Within all this, the Village will still use the 2% tax cap we are allowed which will generate approximately $1,700 in increased revenue which the Village Board has decided to put into a special account solely for the purpose of future infrastructure improvements which we all know are desperately needed. These monies will go towards improvements in street repairs and Village building repairs.

The Village Board is trying to be proactive in what we see as future expenses the Village will be facing and trying to be ready for those expenses. Unlike many other surrounding municipalities facing the challenges of the state-mandated tax cap, I am very proud to say we have a very healthy unappropriated funds balance. We at all times attempt to have 25% of our annual budget in that account at any given time. We are just above that level at this time due to our fiscal restraint in the budget process and thanks to our department heads, who constantly find ways to save the Village money.

As far as what we all have to think about in the not-too-distant future are a few items. First, we all know we need improvements in our water system. In 2020, the water bond that was obtained for our last water system improvement project will be paid off. At that time, we will need to most likely enter into another bond. We will also be seeking, and have already started to apply for, several different grants and low-to-no-interest loans to assist with these costs.

Another future cost relates to our Village Hall and Fire Department building. In the past year we have had to repair several leaks in our building's roof system. The contractors doing the work have informed us that the roof will need to be totally redone in the next five to 10 years, which will be a substantial expense for the Village. I believe the last time we received quotes to replace the roof they were in excess of $70,000. In addition, as a Village we need to begin to have the discussion on a new facility for our fire department. I am not saying that we need to build one in the next five years, but we need to start the process. Things don't last forever and fire apparatus has increased in size tremendously in the last 10 years. What we have now works, but as equipment continues to increase in size, we too must increase the available space. Your insurance rates tie in directly with the amount of water we can have on trucks in our bays, so these decisions affect everyone.

Updating everyone on the proposed sewer system, we are moving forward. We hope to have a public hearing in April to finalize the setting up of a Sewer District, which will in turn pave the way for obtaining additional funding streams. As always, more to come!

I would like to say thanks to our Village Department of Public Works for their amazing dedication to our Village during last week's snowstorm. Steve Siptrott and Ty Rogers put in an amazing amount of hours in an attempt to keep our streets passable. At one point Tuesday night, I had to tell them to go home and get some sleep, we could just no longer keep up with the rate of snowfall we were getting. Even then they both came back in after a couple hours of sleep to start the process all over again. Both of these men truly care about this community and I would like to thank them both for their hard work and dedication!

In closing, I would like to remind all that this Tuesday is Village election day. As has been the case in the last few years, all candidates are running unopposed. As I have also said in the past, this does not mean you should not worry about voting. Your vote tells us whether you're happy with your Village Board representatives and the job they are doing for you or not.

Typically when there is not a competitive race, we get around 20 voters who take the time to vote, which means any write-in campaign needs to only get 20-plus people to write in a name and win. In that way, you can have new representatives and no idea what they stand for or what their beliefs are because you weren't given the opportunity through the petition process to ask them questions. Please don't mistake this request as a plea for you to vote for me. I hope you do, but my request is that as many of you as possible get out that day and exercise your right to make that choice.

I would also like to take this time to thank Shawn Crane for his many years as a Trustee and Deputy Mayor for the Village board. For all those years Shawn has been at my side helping me and the rest of the board make the difficult decisions we sometimes have to make. He has been there to keep me in line and remain calm when all I really wanted to do was the total opposite -- and for that, and so many other things, thank you Shawn, you will be missed.

Keith T. Pierce
Mayor
Village of Odessa

 

 

© The Odessa File 2017
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