The Village of Lancaster has a new budget for 2014-15 of $6.35 million that increases spending by less than 1 percent.
Its adoption this week occurred in the midst of arguments over whether the village should seriously consider abolishing its village court system, an idea promoted by Trustee Russell Sugg.
After back-and-forth debate, along with Sugg complaining about 3 percent pay raises for some village workers – and 20 percent in one case, for a clerk-typist in the public works office – the board voted, 4-1, to adopt the spending plan. Sugg was the only no vote.
“If we cut the court system, we would eliminate a 1 percent tax increase in the village,” Sugg said. “The budget is done. The talking has not begun. I am voting ‘no’ on the budget. I want serious talks about this court system.”
Even if the village had taken swift action this spring to begin dissolving its court, it would not have impacted the new budget, many officials said. In fact, Village Attorney Arthur Herdzik noted that no such change could occur before the term of the sitting village justice ends, which won’t be until 2017.
Village officials insisted that no material was being held back from Sugg and that as more information is known about court costs and actual expenses, it would be forwarded to all Village Board members.
Sugg argued that 3 percent pay raises for some of the village’s workforce were too much. “A lot of people have fixed incomes in the Town of Lancaster and cannot afford 3 percent pay increases,” he said.
The pay for village trustees and the mayor will remain unchanged: Trustees are each paid $9,900, while the mayor earns $12,900.
Mayor Paul M. Maute and others defended the village and insisted the village court system needed detailed, careful analysis to see if it would really save the village money to eliminate it in favor of just having the Town Court.
Maute said he didn’t understand the rush about the court system. A village committee is talking about the issue in a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.
The village’s new tax rate under the new budget is $10.01 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, up by 0.85 percent. The increase in the tax levy, the amount raised by taxes, is 0.89 percent. Spending in the general fund is up by0 .73 percent.
The village was able to reduce its health insurance costs in the budget by about $30,000.
Sewer rates remain unchanged, but some noted that the village may need to consider increasing them in another year since they have remained unchanged for the last 10 years.