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2017-10-11 / Front Page

Colchester Mulls Surplus Fund Designation

By Lillian Browne


The wooden eagles, like this one at the Colchester Town Hall, that were part of the 2016 Downsville Streetscape Art Project and are owned by the town, are in need of repair. Project leader Pio DeRoda, pictured here, encourages volunteers to contact her for the time consuming and specifically detailed restoration project. 
Lillian Browne/The Reporter The wooden eagles, like this one at the Colchester Town Hall, that were part of the 2016 Downsville Streetscape Art Project and are owned by the town, are in need of repair. Project leader Pio DeRoda, pictured here, encourages volunteers to contact her for the time consuming and specifically detailed restoration project. Lillian Browne/The Reporter COLCHESTER - Issues concerning undesignated surplus funds in Colchester’s budget that have raised questions from town auditors and elicited a poor review of financial management by Colchester officials from the New York State Comptroller, may soon be resolved.

At a meeting of the Colchester Town Council on Oct. 4, municipal attorney Michael DeGroat advised council members to establish capital reserve accounts while working toward a 2018 budget. Colchester has long held surplus funds in general and highway reserve accounts in order to handle emergency situations like road repairs following a flood.

Because there is not currently a project that Colchester needs the surplus funds for, DeGroat suggested the establishment of a capital and equipment repair fund, which would not require a permissive referendum in order to quickly withdraw money to make emergency repairs.

However, DeGroat said, establishing those accounts and withdrawing money from them, would require a public notice and hearing.

The town currently has approximately $1 million in undesignated surplus funds, which must be properly designated in order to comply with state law. DeGroat advised the council that it is permissible to leave some of that surplus as an unexpended balance of the budget, “as long as it is reasonable.”

The surplus, Supervisor Art Merrill explained, is comprised of FEMA reimbursements, which the town has kept available in the event emergency and unforeseen road or infrastructure repairs are needed.

“The thing that scares us, is when the next flood comes,” Merrill said. “We are fortunate that we have a little more reserve than other towns.”

As an example, Merrill cited the repair of Campbell Brook Road which suffered extensive damage in a flooding event that was not declared a disaster by state or federal government agencies. The town was able to make repairs to the road and not rely on FEMA disaster funds because of its undesignated surplus funds.

In other town business, Clerk Julie Townsend announced that unpaid water bills will be added to property tax bills at the end of October. Until the end of the month, Downsville and Cooks Falls water district users can pay their past due bills at the clerk’s office in Downsville.

In other business:

• Part-time Colchester Police Officer Krista Baxter resigned from the department with Merrill explaining that she was displeased with scheduling. Keith Gavette was appointed as a full-time police officer, at the rate of $22 per hour, pending compliance with civil service requirements. During September the police department issued 39 traffic tickets, responded to 10 general calls and made three arrests.

• A transfer of $13,845.15 was made from the general fund into the Downsville Water District Fund due to insufficient funds that were needed to make a due loan payment.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Colchester Town Board will be on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m.

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