Neighboring municipalities oppose sewer fund transfer

A letter signed by Village of Fort Johnson Mayor Kenneth Walter, Village of Hagaman Mayor Robert Krom, and Town of Amsterdam Supervisor Thomas DiMezza was sent to Mayor Ann Thane and the Common Council on May 29, urging the city not to transfer money from its sewer fund to the general fund. The letter was also copied to NY State Senator George Amedore and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara.

The brief letter states, “We as sewer users in the Village of Fort Johnson, Village of Hagaman, Town of Amsterdam and the Town of Florida are writing to you at this time to advise you that we are opposed to the Council using the Fund Balance in the Sewer Fund to help balance the General Fund.”

NY State law prohibits the city from using revenue or the fund balance in the sewer fund for any uses other than those related to the operation of the sewer system. The Common Council passed a resolution unanimously on May 21 authorizing a letter to be sent to Amedore and Santabarbara asking them to sponsor legislation that would allow a one time use of the sewer fund balance.

Mayor Ann Thane said the same day she wanted to negotiate with the Common Council to restore some of the budget cuts they had made before signing the resolution.

At a Common Council meeting on Tuesday, members approved a change to the city’s charter which would allow for the transfer if NY State were to approve it. Members voted 4-1 with Alderwoman Valerie Beekman casting the no vote.

The latest official figure for the city’s sewer fund balance is from the 2012-2013 Annual Update Document which reports a balance of $1,142,946 as of June 2013. However, due to ongoing reconciliation of the city’s financial records, the exact current balance is not known.

On Wednesday, Fort Johnson Mayor Kenneth Walter said that he thought it was only fair for the approximate 220 users of the city’s sewer system in the village to expect that their fees go to maintaining the sewer system, rather than other city programs. Walter pointed out that the village maintains it’s own sewer system and has to abide by the same NY State law which restricts how funds are used. He said that the sewer fund balance should be saved for major repairs to the system in the event of a catastrophic failure or to stabilize service rates.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.