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Fredonia budget to reflect COVID-19 crisis

Mayor Doug Essek made it clear at this past week’s Board of Trustees session: Fredonia’s next budget will be more conservative than originally foreseen because of the COVID-19 crisis.

“This budget started out in quite a normal fashion but ended quite conservatively,” Essek said during a short presentation he made on the tentative budget he submitted last week. Planning for the budget started in February — weeks before the economic disruption related to the coronavirus outbreak hit Fredonia, the state and the country.

The total proposed budget, including the general fund and the water and sewer lines, is for $10,502,402, a $248,322 increase over the current budget. However, it does not have a tax increase, or water or sewer rate hikes, Essek said.

The mayor said he does not want to add any personnel or capital spending at this time. However, he assured that no services would be cut and currently ongoing projects will still continue.

“This has been a very challenging budget and under normal economic conditions, a tax rate hike would be considered to help fund justified employees to be added and capital spending in the general fund,” he said. “My decision to put a hold on additional personnel and capital spending, in lieu of a tax increase at this time of financial unknown, was due to undetermined revenues — the possibility of property tax payments not being made by citizens who might not be able to pay them.”

The budget dips in to the village’s fund balance, using $143,421, and it also uses $399,366 in unused capital expenses.

“I would like everyone to be aware of the fact that I do realize that departments could use additional staffing and equipment,” Essek said. “I also realize that we are in unprecedented financial times. … I will ask our department heads to roll up their sleeves and go the extra mile. I know we have the employees and staff to support this, think outside the box and do things more efficiently and effectively to provide our residents services.”

Later in the meeting, Trustee James Lynden challenged Essek’s plan to not add any more personnel. Lynden said Tony Gugino, streets superintendent, has told him he desperately needs another mechanic. Lynden said the mechanic would actually wind up providing a savings to the village.

“This isn’t something that I took lightly,” Essek said of his hiring freeze proposal. He added that his budget is tentative, trustees can make changes to it if they want.

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