Bovina budget hit hard by rocketing fuel costs

Highway funds are 84% expended in less than 5 months
By Matthew J. Perry
The Bovina Town Board received an update on the town’s finances on May 13 that included mostly positive budgetary news. Accountant Joe Hanley’s assessment of the first four months of 2008 revealed that overall, the budget was sound and tax levies were meeting projections.
The one piece of bad news—84 percent of the town’s highway budget has been spent in four months—prompted Hanley to tell the gathering that for the rest of the year, “this will be the tightest budget you ever saw.” He was quick to state that the expenditures were yet another effect of sharply spiking fuel prices. Highway superintendent Bob Burgin informed the gathering that fuel costs for his department had risen by 18 cents in April and 20 cents in May.
The town has nearly $150,000 in funds from the state Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), which the highway department is hoping to spend early in the summer in the hopes of being reimbursed by the state in September. With 53 miles of roads to maintain, the department faces an uphill challenge, but Burgin expressed his expectation that all CHIPS improvements could be completed by the end of this month despite a shortage of supplies and money.
“People don’t realize how tough a job it is to keep up with our roads,” commented Councilman Chuck McIntosh.
McIntosh also opened discussion of a possible revenue source that could help to pay for the town’s new highway garage, the cost of which has concerned many residents and town officials. The town’s transfer station is located on a 70-acre parcel of land on Yankee Road; with land in Bovina fetching between $3,000 and $10,000 an acre, a sale of a large chunk of the land would have the potential to cut deeply into the cost of the garage, which will exceed $500,000.
In general, the board saw potential in the idea, and members suggested that the town have the property surveyed, and consult with real estate professionals about the pros and cons. Should the sale become a serious option, it was suggested that neighboring landowners should be approached before opening the sale to the market, in case any were inclined to purchase some or all of the town land to add to their own holdings.
A boundary line adjustment would likely be all that was necessary to separate the transfer station from any size parcel that was sold.
“The town could keep what it needs, sell the rest of the land and put it back on the tax rolls,” said McIntosh. “Perhaps it wouldn’t solve all our short-term money problems but it certainly could help in the long run.”
“I don’t see anything negative about the plan,” said Supervisor Tina Mole.
The discussion about the possible sale was preliminary and no resolutions for action were considered or passed. The board did consider making a field trip to the land to consider further whether the solution could be a potential boon for the town’s finances.