Village of Homer approves 2019 budget

HOMER, N.Y. — At Wednesday evening’s Homer Village Board of Trustees meeting, board members voted unanimously to approve the proposed budget for 2019.

Homer Mayor Hal McCabe stated the now adopted budget is nearly flat as compared to the previous year’s budget, but village homeowners can expect a .5 percent tax levy increase, which is being implemented to cover cost of living increases for employees.

Despite Cortland County reducing the amount of sales tax revenue being allocated to the village, Homer has been able to preserve a fairly static budget.  

McCabe, in an effort to increase efficiency and transparency, employed new management tools to compartmentalize the village’s spending so residents could have a more detailed look into how and where their tax dollars are being appropriated. McCabe also recognized the “very skilled” work of the village’s new treasurer, Tanya Digennaro, for discovering billing errors, and money in the sewer account that allowed the village to avoid planned increases in water and sewer rates.

McCabe also stated that not many municipalities have been able to stabilize their budgets without dipping into their fund balance significantly, but the village of Homer has been successful in doing so, largely in part due to their commitment to better tracking of their spending.

Also, as part of the new budget, the village plans to bring village trash and recycling collection back in-house, which will save  the village “quite a bit of money,” McCabe said. Furthermore, it’ll allow not only the village but the residents, too, more autonomy and flexibility in trash and recycling pickup, he said.

McCabe said there will be “no impact” on residents with the purchase of a new garbage truck. The village has an excess of money in their unallocated fund balance, and under advisement of the comptroller’s office, they will be spending the money on a one-time larger initiative, he said. For the first round of spending, the village will be purchasing a new garbage truck to the tune of roughly $200,000.

McCabe also said the village will be tucking away money each year in anticipation of replacing the garbage truck, which he says has an average lifespan of 15 years.

“With the savings that we anticipate from bring it in-house, we’ll be able to put that money away, and still save people money on their taxes,” McCabe said. “It’s all factored into our calculation for being able to save roughly $50,000 to $60,000 a year for the village.”

Lime bikes coming to Cortland County

The village of Homer is also working in conjunction with Cortlandville and the city of Cortland to launch Lime bikes, which are rentable bikes—both electronic (e-bike) and pedal—for easier mobility for area residents.

Susan Williams, project manager for Seven Valley Health Coalition, Inc., discussed with board members the various logistics concerning the introduction of Lime bikes to the community. The Lime bike app can be downloaded on any smartphone, and a map of where local bikes are “docked” will be available to anyone wishing to rent a bike.

For the entirety of the Cortlandville, city of Cortland, and Homer area, up to 250 Lime bikes will be introduced as part of a pilot program. The pedal bikes will be the cheaper option: the cost to rent is $1 for thirty minutes. E-bikes have an initial $1 unlocking fee, and after that, the cost is 15 cents a minute, totaling $10/hour. However, the average e-bike ride is 12 minutes, making the average cost to rent an e-bike $2.80 ($1 unlocking fee, plus $1.80 for the ride).

There’s also a program called LimeAccess for low-income residents, making the cost less expensive: 50 cents to unlock an e-bike, 7 cents a minute to rent an e-bike, and 5 cents for 30 minutes on a pedal bike. If you’re on the LimeAccess program, you do not have to use a credit card to rent a bike: you can fill your account at CVS or 7/11 in Cortland, and the village of Homer or Cortlandville have the opportunity to create another spot for local residents to put money on their account.

There’s also an option to create a “geofence” on the Lime app, designating preferred docking areas for the bikes, and also making it impossible to dock bikes in areas that have been deemed inappropriate or inaccessible.

“This is a neat program, and it’ll really dovetail well with our being a more bike-friendly village,” McCabe said, “Cortlandville and the city of Cortland are on board, so this is really great for the county. I’m all for doing this.”

The village of Homer would also like to remind the community about an upcoming change to smoke detector laws in New York. As of April 1, 2019, all smoke detectors sold in New York State are required to be powered by a 10-year, sealed, non-removable battery, or hardwired to the home. Homeowners and landlords need to upgrade their smoke detectors before selling or renting homes and apartments in the state.