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One of the COVID-19 issues raised at the May Town Board meeting was how lower-that-estimated sales tax revenue will impact the Town of Lansing Highway Department. The two main functions of the Highway Department are plowing and road maintenance, including paving. Councilman Joseph Wetmore raise the question of anticipated sales tax loss may specifically impact road projects.

"We've done the projections with the road improvements for instance," replied Lansing Supervisor Ed LaVigne. "(Highway Superintendent Charlie 'Cricket' Purcell) has come up with a contingency plan that if he needs to shave some of that down, he can. So we reviewed some of that already. Once again, we'll see where the sales tax goes. We may take a hit. We do have 8.4 months of sales tax between the B and the DB in our fund balance policy rather than six months. So we have a bit of a surplus there."

Recognizing that Village residents and town outside the Village property taxpayers have different needs, Lansing maintains two budgets. The A and DA funds come from whole town taxpayers, while B and DB funding comes from taxpayers who live in the town, but outside the Village. These funds maintain a fund balance that is generally used for emergencies or important projects or items that arise after the budget has been approved. LaVigne said there is enough money in the B and DB fund balances to potentially offset sales tax losses to the Highway Department, but only assuming the crisis passes within a few months.

"Is that a sustainable plan? No," he said. "If this virus is around for three years, that's going to be a problem. But I don't think it's going to be around for three years, so consequently we can make adjustments as we go. We'd love to give you details on those, but -- who knows? -- maybe you get a surge in June and July, and the next thing you know we're back on track."

LaVigne said that while the Town is prepared to make adjustments, they are not 'written down in stone' because he and Purcell are remaining flexible while they monitor actual revenues.

"It basically is dictated by what the Governor tells us to do and also what the sales tax does," he explained. "So we have to be somewhat flexible. I wish I could give you a specific answer on every situation, but right now a lot of stuff is predicated on what we receive on the revenue stream."

The Highway Department has two budgets: Highway Fund DA is paid for by the whole town, including Village of Lansing and non-village property taxpayers. Estimated appropriations in the DA budget are $1,338,497.50. Highway Fund DB, paid by Residents Outside the Village, $1,484,300. The Town's 2020 budget calculates $1,281,900 in sales tax revenue going into the Highway Department DB fund.

That is why paving is high on the list of possible cutbacks. The Village does its own paving, but road maintenance in the Town outside the Village is largely funded by sales tax.

Wetmore pressed LaVigne on what a 'Plan B' might look like if revenues do come in below estimated sales tax revenue in the budget.

"Plan B could be that we don't do as much paving this year," LaVigne said. "Plan B could be a lot of other things. I suspect the in next few months we're going to have a good idea when we set those projections. Now please keep in mind, right now we're about $7,500 in front of last year's projections at this time. Now we're going to be (estimate by Tompkins County Administrator jason Molino) cut about $20,000 to $24,000, I believe, probably in April. So now we're down at a deficit of $17,000."

The Town has more than 93 miles of roads, which ideally are repaved on a ten year resurfacing cycle. But they are kept in good enough shape that some delays are not disastrous. A decade ago budget cuts forced what would normally be nine or ten miles of repaving per year down to four. But Purcell and LaVigne are hoping that won't be necessary, and in any case hoping that the current crisis will not be long-lived.

"Once again, we'll have to play this by ear to see where it goes in the future," LaVigne said. "If we get a series of three to four months, that's something to have that discussion about, maybe in June or July, depending on when his paving season starts."

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