Rayland mayor notes budget matters to village council

RAYLAND – Village Mayor Tammy Morelli described 2012 as “hectic and trying” for herself and Village Council, but she also pointed out some positive happenings during a recent meeting.

“Revenue was down, expenses were up due to many unforeseen happenings such as the firing of the chief of police, the state audit findings, state-mandated so-called necessities, sewage pump station shutdown, financial records in disarray, missed payment of village insurance and rejection of a 3-mill levy for current expenses by village residents,” Morelli said.

But she noted things were not all bad in 2012. She mentioned the hiring of a fiscal officer “who has worked diligently to straighten out the financial records of the village.” Later in her “state of the village” report, she praised the help of Village Administrator Rich Bibbo, Fiscal Officer Rick Soos and village council, adding with their help, “we will meet every challenge head on, and we will prevail.”

The said the village cut $7,000 in the payroll in 2012.

She also said an ordinance had been approved by council to establish a streetlight fee, and as a result, the general fund should not be in the red in 2013.

Village officials, according to Morelli, signed a new three-year contract with Waste Management for garbage collection at no increase in costs, and that makes seven years with the same rate.

“What a great arrangement for village residents,” she added.

She also said the front of the municipal building had been painted, a new hot water tank was obtained and installed in the municipal building, a new air conditioner also was installed and the village parking lot was sealed, all at no cost to the village. Those projects were paid for by a group of concerned citizens or Jefferson County officials, it was noted.

Morelli said the village “has a wonderful working relationship with our neighbor villages of Yorkville and Tiltonsville along with Warren and Wells townships.”

Bibbo mentioned the cost savings realized in the past year by reducing the payroll, and she updated council about the new streetlight fund and reported the street fund is still OK despite the increase in manhours required to clear the streets of snow. He also said the village is receiving help from the county and the township with snowplowing on Narrows Road.

Emphasizing a need to remain vigilant and frugal, Soos described the village’s finances as being “in a little bit of disarray” when he began working for the village two years ago.

He said that during the first few day on the job, he received a letter from Columbia Gas threatening to shut off the village’s gas because of non-payment. That was only one of the problems he described.

Significant progress has been made as officials now know exactly how much money they have, what the fund balances are and there are only three past-due bills, two of which it is hoped will be paid off by summer, and the state auditor bill with plans to have it significantly paid down by the end of the year.

After reporting about financial records being organized and reports being filed on time, he added the village’s general fund is still in the red primarily due to the cumulative loss of nearly $13,000 in state funding over the last two years.

Soos went on to say electric rates have increased 39 percent in the last three years, the minimum wage has been raised every year, and the price of gasoline and other essentials continue to rise.

“We have momentarily ceased the tide, thanks in part to the implementation of the streetlight fee, the significant cost savings in our fire contract negotiated by the mayor and graciously accepted by the fire department, the reduction of payroll hours and approximately $5,700 in savings I have negotiated with our various vendors,” he said.

The fiscal officer pointed out the need “to building upon the progress we have made,” while indicating there are distinct possibilities the village may need to look for additional revenue sources in the next few years, as well as continuing to monitor whether the village can afford to keep its police department or not.

“Ultimately, the taxpayers of Rayland will need to determine what services they wish to fund and/or which services they wish to live without,” Soos reported.