DANSVILLE — The Dansville Village Water and Sewer Operations were recently audited by New York State Comptroller Thomas Dinapoli.
The purpose of the audit was to determine whether the village board effectively managed water and sewer operations for the periods June 1, 2013 through November 8, 2017. The village has approximately 4,700 residents, and 2017-18 water and sewer appropriations totaled approximately $2.5 million.
The audit from the comptroller claimed that the village board has not provided adequate oversight of water and sewer operations; did not monitor water losses; and has not developed a multiyear financial and capital plan.
NYS Comptroller Dinapoli suggested the following steps for the village board: they should develop policies and procedures related to the water and sewer billing, and collection process that ensure an adequate segregation of duties or provide for mitigating controls; they should investigate and correct the causes of water loss due to leaks if it is cost-effective to do so; and they should develop a multiyear financial and capital plan.
The village board held a special public hearing on April 11 to discuss how to fix the problems.
Mayor Peter Vogt issued the following message about the comptroller’s findings.
“The 2018-19 Village of Dansville Tentative Budget was initially prepared by me working with the department heads for the Clerk’s Office, Code Enforcement & Zoning Office, Police Department and Department of Public Works. The Board of Trustees provided input at a special meeting held on Saturday, March 24,” he said. “The budget is on file at the Clerk’s Office and is available for public review. A copy of the exemption list is attached to the budget, along with a copy of this message. The Board gave final approval to the budget at its regular meeting on May 1, following a public hearing that was held April 11. The budget consists of three funds: General, Water, and Sewer funds. These funds are managed according to the accounting standards set by the Office of the New York State Comptroller.
“The Village assessment role for 2018 shows a taxable value of $166,979,863, which is essentially flat from 2017. Not wishing to increase the tax rate, despite the state tax cap on the levy being 2 percent, the Board chose to keep the tax levy flat at $2,169,068.42,” Vogt said about the general fund. “This has resulted in appropriations (anticipated expenditures) being $2,951,497.18, a decrease of 4.23 percent over the current fiscal year. That drop is mostly a reflection of drops in other sources of income.
“The General Fund has an unallocated fund balance of $920,151 and a reserve fund of $364,221.91. Approximately $150,000 of the former is earmarked for the costs associated with the replacement of the Seward St. culvert, which the Board recently declared unsafe for vehicular traffic,” Vogt continued. “However, the Board is hoping to be awarded a grant through the New York State Department of Transportation NYBridge program. The Village has also reached out to our state representatives, Assemblyman Joe Errigo and Senator Cathy Young, for support.
“This fund is entirely financed by water user fees and charges. It is in the black and holding steady. The cash-flow issues of a couple years ago are behind us, and the debt service from the filtration plant will go away in 2021,” Vogt said about the water fund. “This year’s appropriations are projected to be $1,378,750, a 2.12 percent decrease. The unallocated fund balance stands at $297,198.03. No water reserves have been established.
“It is worth noting here that expenses for the Water Fund are not just for filtering water. The Village has a reservoir and dam to maintain, wells that are being renovated, fire hydrants that need replacing and unaccounted for unmetered water, to name a few issues,” Vogt added. “The last item is a serious concern, one that has been echoed by the state comptroller. There are multiple reasons for the loss. The Board is currently entertaining a proposal to study the water distribution system to determine the exact causes."
Vogt mentioned that related to the foregoing is the age of our water system. Leaks are common and account for some of the loss noted above. Some are ongoing and difficult to find. Others can happen suddenly. In any event, the need to identify weak lines and replace them will require the same attention.
“The Sewer Fund is entirely financed by sewer user fees and charges as well. This fund is in excellent shape. At present, $256,000 is in the unallocated fund balance and another $196,366.73 is in reserve,” Vogt said about the sewer fund. “The Waste Water Treatment Plant capital project is complete; the final cost is $384,400 per year. This amount is significantly below the initial projection of $1.5 million per annum, and it includes nearly everything that was in the original proposal. Appropriations for the fund are $1,340.004, a 4.68 percent increase over the current fiscal year. Part of the aforementioned increase in cost is because of the increase regulations and the very nature of processing sewage. Also, due to the size of the operation, an additional employee was put on at the plant.
“Like the Water Fund, the Sewer Fund is more than the waste water treatment plant. The collection system is a complex series of pipelines throughout the village,” Vogt continued. “Many of the lines are old and in poor shape, allowing ground water to leak into the system (referred to as inflow and infiltration, or I&I). This might not sound like a big deal, except that the water is needlessly treated at the waste water treatment plant. Not only is this unnecessary, it is a waste of money. The Village’s engineering firm has been contracted to study the lines to pinpoint the sources of I&I.”