February 6, 2022
2022 State of the Village
Mayor Hauser shares an update on the Village of Perry with a focus on Taxes, Infrastructure, Projects and Plans.
PART 1: The Virtuous Cycle: Lower Taxes —> Increased Investment
I love action and progress. But I also love numbers when they provide an objective appraisal of where we stand and how far we’ve come. And it’s budget season, time once again to set priorities and identify the funds to back it up.
Perry is in a strong position. Why?
Perry has a unique track record when it comes to tax rates in the past 10 years. We have held steady or dropped our village tax rate each year so that it is now 5% lower than it was in 2010. The Town and School District have done the same. That’s during a time when neighboring villages have had to raise their tax rates 9%, 19%, 37% and 42% over the same period.
How has Perry accomplished this? One clue comes from the total assessed valuation of village properties. We’ve seen a *lot* of investment during that period of time. From new industries to the expansion of long-standing businesses; dozens of new residential units. From the rehab of 30 downtown buildings to improvements of hundreds of homes. Numbers talk and, all told, the assessed value has grown 36% since 2010.
This expansion of value in the tax base is what allows us to lower tax rates while still making investments, improving conditions, enforcing property maintenance standards, playing catch-up on aging infrastructure, and pursuing business recruitment and economic development with our partners at the County. And, in return, those investments help grow that tax base.
PART 2: Big Infrastructure: Inaction is Not an Option
There are two areas where extreme modernization has been needed - for a long time. Your village board inherited the vintage 1970 sewer treatment plant, no longer able to do its job effectively, meet environmental standards, or accommodate growth. This year, we’ll conclude a six year, $13m, two-phase upgrade and reconstruction of that plant. These were not “optional” improvements, and we pursued significant state support in grants and zero-percent financing to limit the impact on your water/sewer bill. Last month we succeeded in securing $1m to pay in full the costs of soon-to-be required UV effluent disinfection. Instead of playing catch up, we’re now thinking ahead.
The second big project - repairs and upgrades to our 1954 water treatment plant - is in the planning stages. Here we plan to focus on building in redundancy, preventive maintenance and upgrading key elements. Even this limited work will cost $5m and we’ve got applications in the pipeline to help.
Why incur these costs? Because inaction is not an option. We’re in a village where most of the infrastructure is aging. Your board has made it a priority not to kick the can down the road. Doing nothing risks real crises, forces us to turn away businesses and residents, and pushes up the cost of emergency repairs exponentially (as compared to a planned project that maximizes efficiency and outside funding). None of this is unique to Perry; we’re just getting out in front of it. As other communities’ systems age out, they will be faced with similar challenges and costs.
Finally, can I give a shout out to our water and sewer plant employees? They’ve been rock steady, detail-oriented, and have navigated the construction process and the joys of aging equipment. They continue to deliver.
PART 3: Projects and Plans
Beyond our basic infrastructure, we focus on three categories where we aim our continued revitalization efforts: Built Environment, Business Stability and Growth, and Quality of Life.
Results include signature public spaces like the splash pad at the park, the renaissance at our public beach, our pedestrian and streetscape work downtown, and our Silver Lake Trail improvements linking the beach to downtown. This winter we’re installing an elevator at the village hall that unlocks legal access to 50% more public space - a historic assembly hall that’s been unusable for over a quarter century.
We continue to pave and improve streets and sidewalks - comprehensive inventories taken in 2013 and again in 2019 show the percentage of sidewalks rated a 4 or 5 (out of 5) grew from 60% to 80% during that time and in the time since we’ve leveraged other programs and partners to replace another 3000 linear feet. Likewise, we’ve invested over $1m on road paving projects during that time and have an aggressive plan for the next three years. There’s more to do on those fronts.
Implementation starts with a plan, and a citizen coalition wrote one - a new comprehensive plan - in 2015. The village board has since followed it up with new zoning, policies, local laws and the staffing to support that vision. This has helped us put in place initiatives to improve property maintenance, eliminate blighted properties, preserve single-family housing, fill vacancies, grow our recreational assets, nurture our neighborhoods, celebrate our downtown, and support our businesses.
And, with your involvement, this progress can continue. I say “your involvement” because action starts with a plan, and planning starts with our people. Perry is a Yes community, and that includes citizens saying yes when invited to participate. Actually, People *are* Perry’s superpower! Here are just some of the current advisory groups and boards helping build the Perry of tomorrow:
- Center Street Master Plan. A citizen committee is working with consultants to wrap up a (grant-funded) master plan for the entire Center Street corridor with input from businesses and neighbors as well as the community overall. This plan includes an emphasis on a transformed northern gateway with greater vehicular and pedestrian safety and amenities, all serving to support the success of our commercial interests, and a better access for all of us who use this street.
- Downtown Economic Resiliency Study. This (grant-funded) plan is being developed by a partnership of citizens, businesses and planners to address housing, parking, and business recruitment strategies to put our small community on a more stable footing ahead of the next crisis.
- Tree Board. This citizen-driven group continues to develop a “village forest” vision for our neighborhoods and implement it in partnership with our DPW, one planting at a time.
- Complete Streets Advisory Group. This all-star, all-volunteer committee with leadership from our planning board is working on recommendations for future development.
- Trail Towns Committee. A subgroup of PMSA, and with funding from Letchworth Gateway Villages, this team has been working with Parks & Trails NY on trail assessment, trail mapping and branding tied to our position at the center of Genesee Valley, to help leverage the visitor market and enhance local amenities.
PART 4: Resiliency
At the village, we’re always looking at two things: being smart with taxpayer dollars short-term, and shifting the village into a more resilient stance long-term. And in the case of our efforts on the resiliency front in 2021, we made great progress on both.
That includes better storm drainage to deal with more intense storms and we’ve just secured grant funds totaling $700,000 towards drainage improvements on Benedict, Olin, Hawthorne and Watkins Streets. Like every drainage project (and this will be our fifth in 10 years), this one has the added advantage of reducing the infiltration of rainwater entering our sewer plant.
Resiliency also means reducing the Village’s reliance on fossil fuels. To that end we have made terrific progress working with NYSERDA’s “Clean Energy Communities” incentive program. We rack up points for doing green things that are saving us money. Then we can cash in those points. That’s a win-win. Here are some highlights:
- LED Streetlights. Have you noticed? We cut a deal with NYSEG to pay off the “residual value” of old streetlights throughout the village, which they own. That cost about $7,700. They then replaced all the streetlights with bright, new LEDs that last longer (fewer outages) and use less electricity. Projected annual savings is $28,000.
- Community Solar. The Village also recently joined a Community Solar project based in Western NY and will soon be getting all our electricity for municipal functions from the sun. This saves the village 10% on our electricity bills, guaranteed. Projected annual savings is $7,000.
- Electric Vehicles. We’re starting to convert our vehicle fleet to electric because it makes sense. Our main police patrol vehicles spend a lot of time idling so their actual fuel economy is about half of normal - 9-10 mpg. A primary patrol car might put on 20,000 miles/year, and you know the price of gas. That could cost $6000 or more in fuel. By comparison, an electric police car like the one you are now seeing on the streets in Perry can be kept conditioned with a small draw on the battery. At a fuel economy of 3-4 miles per kWh, it will cost around $800-$1000/year in electricity. Over five years of use, the extra purchase price will be more than offset by the fuel not purchased. Add to this a $7500 rebate incentive for municipalities we secured, and the taxpayer savings over 5 years could be $20,000.
Given the points NYSERDA has awarded us from these “high impact action items” and a few others, Perry is now a designated Clean Energy Community. That designation results in a $5000 award to help us make more sustainability investments and save more tax dollars.
In 2022 we will be launching three Community Campaigns to help residents - free energy audits that could lead to heating/cooling savings for you; information about electric vehicles in partnership with our local dealers to see if it’s a good choice for you; and a chance to sign up for Community Solar-sourced electricity for your home or business (and that 10% savings).
There’s more - there’s always more. And you have concerns and questions. That’s all good. Your village board likes engaged citizens - remember, that’s Perry’s superpower. So, come find me and we’ll talk. I still do Coffee Hour With The Mayor each Saturday morning, 11am, at Biblio-Tech Cafe. Email me ahead of time to set a time, or try your luck and just drop in - I’m vaxxed and boosted, and coffee is on me. Meanwhile, be safe, and stay warm.
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