By Joseph Lekarczyk
In the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that the author of this article is married to the Mayor.Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen, her staff, and the Board of Trustees have wrestled the on going annual budget deficits in the General and Parks & Rec. Funds into submission for the 2011 budget cycle. Late Monday night in a budget workshop the group was finally able to close the gap, between what the Town brings in, in revenues, and what it pays out in expenses in order to keep things running.
During the “good times,” when building starts in Lyons were up, everyone involved got used to having a seemingly endless supply of revenue; surpluses were accumulated, and spending continued as if this would never change. Well it did. We all know the economy went into the tank, and one of the hardest hit sectors was the housing market. According to Simonsen, in 2008 the General Fund ran a $260,000 deficit. In 2009 it was $175K (plus $197K in the Parks & Rec. Fund). As late as last year, the gap was still $100K in the General, and $92K in the P & R. This simply could not continue.
Simonsen said that some of the big savings were realized because of a number of small things, which together added up. A foreman position on the Parks & Rec. staff came open, and it was decided not to fill the position, but rather have Parks & Rec. Director Dave Cosgrove oversee those duties. The cost of living pay adjustments for the Town Staff were not given, and as an act of solidarity, the BOT agreed to cut their own stipend by fifty percent. An accurate reallocation of staff time was instituted, so that salaries could now be paid out of the appropriate Enterprise Funds (Water, Sewer, and Electric) instead of the General. There is an anticipated increase in the revenues from property and sales tax (that could always go south, but we remain optimistic). And, Simonsen says her discussions with local builders indicate that there might be a slight increase in construction permit fees in 2011. She also credited the scaling back of some Town sponsored events, like Good Old Days, The Outdoor Games, etc. for putting the Parks & Rec. Fund into the black (by $3,500) for 2011!
Although we are not out of the woods just yet, there does now seem to be capable hands on the reins. Everyone should be congratulated for getting a handle on a very difficult task.
In other good news, Simonsen says the pump station has been fully repaired and is back in operation (you may recall the chlorine corrosion story of a few weeks back). Thanks go to Public Works Director Larry Badker and his crew for pulling it all together and getting the mess cleaned up. The pipes have been sandblasted and are in good condition. The Town will not have to replace any of the 12” pipe. The piping and flange that were attached to the chlorine tubing were completely replaced with stainless steel. The system was totally blocked with corrosion from the metals and chlorine reaction. Simonsen said it appeared that additional chlorine had been leaking into the pit, instead of into the water. She indicated she is not planning to add any additional chlorine to the system at this point. Bob Alberts, of Alberts Wastewater Management is continuing to sample water throughout the system. Town Engineer Jim Blankenship will be reviewing and engineering the “looping” of the system, so there are no longer dead ends that hold water in which the chlorine dissipates. Simonsen said, “The Town will also be reviewing the system for “old” water lines that need to be replaced, and schedule said replacement in the coming years. Between these measures and the cleaning of the water tank and flushing of hydrants and lines, we should have no quality issues with our water supply.”