2012 State of the Village Address
Ruth Marlatt, Mayor of Fayette
January 25, 2012
Let me begin by thanking the many volunteers whose selfless efforts improve our quality of life within the Village of Fayette and the surrounding area.
Whether it is by lending a hand at the recycling center, coaching a summer team, picking up around the park, decorating for the Holiday Season or delivering Meals on Wheels, your efforts are appreciated and solidify the foundation on which our community is built.
At a time when many communities lament the loss of service organizations, Fayette is the home of a vital Lion’s Club, Saint Vincent DePaul, Helping Hands Food Pantry, Fayette’s American Legion, the Bull Thistle Festival Committee and the Arts Council & Opera House. These organizations coupled with our faith community, provide a caring network that defines the community.
I also want to thank the citizens who serve on our Tree Commission, Zoning Board, Park Board and Sidewalk Review Board. Your efforts on behalf of the community, while too often taken for granted, help keep us moving forward. I sincerely thank you for your leadership by example.
A vital Main Street is the goal of every community.
While many towns and villages have experienced increased vacancy on their Main Street, Fayette has benefited by the investment of new businesses. This past year Fayette welcomed:
· The Saw Shop
· My Sister’s Attic
· Lanzcove Tanning
And Fayette residents have witnessed the expansion of:
· Fayette Feed Mill’s new drive through service center.
· The remodeling of Amigo’s Restaurant
· And the construction of additional grain storage at the Ridgeville Elevator.
These new and expanded enterprises join a long list of Main Street establishments that provide employment to well over a hundred people and service to thousands of customers.
INDUSTRY & MANUFACTURING
We are all aware of the importance of the industrial and manufacturing sector to local communities. The fact is, with the exception of governmental centers, we all depend on industrial jobs, to keep our community viable. The withholding tax has become one of our primary sources of revenue. Locally, jobs in all sectors produced a whopping 67% of our General Fund Income for Fiscal Year 2011. That is why jobs are a local and national issue.
Therefore, whenever a community losses jobs to plant closings, economic downturns or poaching, the consequences are far reaching.
When driving through communities throughout the region I am struck by the number of vacant industrial sites. Thanks to the aggressive efforts of our industrial sector, Fayette has a very low industrial vacancy rate.
I would remind you:
· TRW has remained a major player in the automotive industry and our community because of its performance. Congratulations to its management and workforce for earning industry respect and confidence.
· Fayette Business Park is buzzing with activity because of the efforts of its owners and their industrious tenants.
· KP Tool and Quality Tube are quiet reminders of what happens when good people invest in local communities.
· Next Specialty Resins, through innovation and hard work is carving a niche in the recycling industry.
· And, if the economy continues to rebuild, we may soon have the opportunity to welcome new industries.
ON THE GOVERNMENTAL FRONT:
· The Gamble Road Widening Project has been completed.
· We have also finished work on the Northwest Fulton Street Lift Station project which addressed long standing service issues.
· This past year we have nearly completed the first phase of our Sidewalk Improvement Program. I thank those home owners who have maintained their sidewalks over the years, as well as those who made a considerable investment in these difficult economic times to improve their walkways. Our rational for addressing sidewalk maintenance is based on a commitment to providing safe pedestrian passages for citizens of all ages to walk to work, school or to shop. From all appearances, this has been a success. As we approach Phase’s 2-5, we hope to use what we have learned from Phase One to facilitate further improvements.
We have much to be pleased about, but we also need to be prepared to work on the challenges that lie ahead.
At our last regular meeting in 2011, the Village Council approved a budget that projects $1,009,999 in revenue and $998,078 in expenditures.
Earlier in the month council was presented with four Funding Scenarios for our Sewer Separation Project. Each scenario is projected to add over $30 per month to local sewer bills when completed. This is a sobering number, yet we know that the project will address long standing collection concerns and compliance issues. While there is hope that these numbers might be modified, for planning purposes we need to address all probabilities and possibilities.
If we have read and studied the Budget presented by our staff we understand that:
• In our village a mill prior to 2012 generated about $14,200. With the 10% reduction in property value, that number will fall to about $12,750 for 2012.
• While Fayette residents have a total property tax obligation of 82 mills only 7 mills (or 9%) are dedicated to the village. According to County Real Estate Tables, Fayette’s share of that amount accounts to approximately $90,000 broken down as follows:
• 2.1 mills or $26,625 is inside millage for general operation
• 2.9 mills or $37,045 is voter approved millage for the General Fund, and
• 2 mills or $25,550 is generated to operate our parks.
With closer scrutiny, we find that:
• Even though Council has approved a PPO to curb escalating health care costs, health insurance for just one family policy costs the equivalent of one mill in our community.
• Council’s recently approved budget includes just under $205,000 for police coverage. That amount is the equivalent of 15 mills.
• Village Council members have read the reports that state that we spend more than a mill out of the general fund on:
o Legal Fees: $17,379 (1.36 mills)
o Street Lights: $20, 982 (1.65 mills)
o Miscellaneous Contracted Services: $19,083 (1.5 mills)
It all adds up.
We not only need to be frugal, we need to actively engage with those who make decisions that impact our village’s revenue streams. We no longer can be complacent with respect to the redistribution of locally generated tax revenue through County and State agencies.
Keep in mind:
· The State’s reduction of Local Government Funds to Fayette has cost the equivalent of over 3 mills over the course of this past decade. That money has not been replaced.
· While few seem to know how to calculate and report the performance of the Commercial Activity Tax with respect to the implied promise back in the early 2000’s, local governments have experienced the consequence of dealing with less revenue.
· We need to encourage our Commissioners to be good stewards of the nearly 12 mills we send their direction for the support of Countywide initiatives. As representatives of Fayette, we need to openly assess the performance of economic development agencies and planning bodies and service providers to ensure our residents achieve a fair return on their investment.
· And, most of all, we need to cooperate and collaborate with our community partners; the Gorham Township Trustees and the Fayette School Board to ensure fiscal equity and to better serve our constituents.
We also need to be mindful that today’s economic climate has stimulated the predatory instincts of those who wish to consolidate control and management with the effect of flowing wealth away from local communities.
Fayette is not without valuable and sustainable site specific natural resources.
We are not alone in recognizing their value.
Our responsibility is to see that those resources are managed in such a way that benefits our residents, both in the short and long term.
Three decades ago, the Village of Fayette opted to transition from a Board of Public Affairs approach to governance to a Village Administrative form of government.
It made sense in the late 70’s. After all, according to the County Developed Comprehensive Plan “Fayette is the opposite of what could be termed a “bedroom community….People reside elsewhere but work in Fayette…” There were 1200 jobs and a population of between 1200 & 1300 people. We are not in the same position we were thirty five years ago.
In 1997 we lost Fayette Tubular Products, once Fulton County’s largest employer and all of the economic advantages that it provided.
Since that time, thanks to the efforts of sound management in both the public and private sector, we have managed. Thanks to aggressive marketing and management from the private sector, we have stabilized our job loss.
We have not replaced the lost jobs and the income they provide.
What happened to Fayette in the late 90’s has spread throughout the County, state and nation.
It has profoundly impacted our budget.
As mentioned, Council passed a budget that projected $998,078 in expenditures for FY 2012. That compares to $1,479,517 of expenditures in our just completed fiscal year. That is a reduction of 33%.
Now is the time to consider a return to a governmental organizational structure that is more in line with revenue streams. Considering the fact that the Water and Sewer Fund currently support the Administrators salary, what better opportunity to refit our governmental structure to current revenue streams?
When revenue streams return to previous levels, the village ought to reconsider a return to the Village Adm. form of government, but until that time Council needs to seriously consider a return to the Board of Public Affairs governance format.
AND WE NEED TO STAND TALLER:
At times we have all heard disparaging remarks about our community. That’s interesting considering the fact that when we travel to other Main Streets we find a higher percentage of vacant store fronts and empty industrial sites. I do not make this statement as a boast. In Fayette, we know what it is to experience loss and we wish those communities well as they face their own set of challenges. I simply want to offer a different perspective.
As elected officials we can’t take credit for the expansion of the work force in the private sector, nor the creation of new Main Street Businesses, but we can remind friends and critics, that in the past decade and a half the Village has
· Upgraded its water treatment plant (Over $300,000)
· Installed new wells (Estimated value from $1.2 million 1.5 million)
· Completed 5 CSO projects
· And relocated its school to name a few.
As stated before, our hands are full.
And, while some might characterize the challenges as too great for the community to bear, this is an opportunity for our community to do what it has always done. To persevere, to respect our neighbors and to treat others as we hope to be treated.
There are answers to the challenges we face.
We just need to keep working together to find those answers.