Monday, February 23, 2015

Tax refund will cost village $175,000

As seen online on ThisWeekNews.com

Monday February 23, 2015 9:41 AM

Johnstown's finance director position has been a revolving door for several years, culminating in two months without a director in 2014, just as the village's 2015 budget was being planned.

Dana Steffan, who was hired in October, has found her footing after less than five months on the job and is working to right the village's financial ship.

Steffan informed Village Council on Feb. 17 of a significant portion of funds that Johnstown would have to pay back after yet another tax mistake gave the village money it should not have had.

Meanwhile, she said, she's working to introduce a necessary rate hike for sewer and water services in the village.

According to Steffan's council report, screen-printing company Atrium, which is based in Johnstown's business park, has an unpaid tax refund of $175,000 from last year that has to be paid within the next 30 days.

"It's unfortunate that the village has to pay this money, but it's nobody's fault and there's nothing we could've done differently," Steffan told council.

Steffan said she has been discussing with Regional Income Tax Agency representatives ways to change tax rates or credit factors in an effort to look for increased revenue, "which we so desperately need."

Before other sources of income could be identified, she plans to propose a "three- to five-year" package to evaluate water and sewer revenues and expenditures and expects to include a rate increase.

The rate-increase proposal comes because of significant fund-balance decreases over the past three years in the water and sewer operating accounts, she said.

"We are hoping to not have to increase water and sewer rates," Steffan said in an email. "But if we do, it will be as minor as possible. Only village residents and not those living outside village limits, pay the village for their water and sewer, so it would only affect village residents."

The 2013 water rate for 2,000 gallons per month was $29.50, according Johnstown's website.

According to Steffan, she plans to support her proposal with a history and analysis of revenues and expenses that will be presented to council by the end of February.

Village Manager Jim Lenner said if a change in rates would be necessary, a date would be set and the council would have to pass an ordinance that would require three readings and could take six weeks to pass.