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Dorchester prepares to trim 2020 expenditures

By Kevin O’Brien

With the first draft of Dorchester’s 2020 budget showing a potential shortfall next year, the village’s elected officials are looking at cutting back on street repairs and equipment purchases to make sure there’s enough money to go around.

Members of the public works and village buildings committee met last week Wednesday, Oct. 23, to go over ways of trimming expenses in the village’s general fund, which primarily consists of local taxes and state aid. They also made recommendations for cutting costs in the water and sewer utilities, which are funded by monthly bills.

To provide the general fund with some extra cushion next year, the committee voted to eliminate a $10,000 increase originally planned for street repairs, such as chipsealing, patching and graveling. If the proposal is adopted by the full board, that line item will remain at $80,000 for next year, despite requests from the public works crew for more road funding.

The proposal also includes cutting $10,000 out of an annual contribution into savings for future capital purchases for the public works department. That will drop the contribution from $25,000 this year to $15,000 in 2020.

DPW Clint Penney told the committee that a new plow truck in the village’s biggest need at this point. He said the existing truck is in need of repairs and does not always work after a snowstorm hits and the temperature drops.

“We need a dependable plow truck is what we need,” he said. “One we can hit the key and go.”

Penney estimated that it will cost around $75,000 for a new plow truck, and he thinks the old one could still be used to haul away snow.

The village currently has over $141,000 in an account designated for “future expenditures,” but only about $4,400 is designated for public works capital purchases at this point. Lastly, the committee recommended cutting $6,000 out of next year’s budget that was originally designated for repairing and upgrading an old bus garage owned by the village. Penney said that project can be put on hold until more money is available.

All together, the committee found $26,000 to cut out of the general fund next year, which will leave the budget with a roughly 2.6 percent contingency. The budget also includes a 3 percent wage increase for all village employees, including members of the police department.

The committee also recommended reducing the water utility’s long term maintenance expenses by $5,000 and cutting the sewer budget by the same amount. Part of the cut to the sewer budget was in the area of contracted services, primarily for engineering.

Utility operator Rick Golz said it’s not easy for the village to control those costs because it’s under a DNR mandate to reduce the levels of phosphorus being released by the treatment plant. As a result, the village is committed to paying its engineering firm, MSA Professional Services, thousands of dollars for studies and plans required for the village to renew its sewer discharge permit for the next five years.

“Without the phosphorus thing, it would be a whole lot easier,” he said.

Sewer rates have already been raised twice in the last couple years to keep up with the utility’s expenses.

The full village board will vote on the committee’s recommendations at its next meeting on Nov. 6.