Property taxes could skyrocket in Forestville

FORESTVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) -  A day after angry Forestville residents yelled at village leaders about possible skyrocketing taxes, Mayor Kevin Johnson told News 4 he’s hopeful the proposed 445 percent property tax hike could be lowered to 250 percent in the 2014-2015 budget.

For a home valued at $100,000 taxes would increase $2,285 per year with a 445 percent tax jump.

According to the newly elected mayor, financial problems in Forestville started in 2009 when a building being renovated collapsed and had to be demolished. The village took out a $250,000 loan from Evans Bank and at the time they assumed the county would help pay the loan back, because the mayor said that is what they did in the past.

There wasn’t any written agreement and that never happened. Each year the mayor says the bank asked them for a payment on the five-year loan and every year since 2009 the village asked the bank for more time.

It’s been five years and Evans Bank won’t renew the loan’s life, blaming a state law.

Financial problems continued for the village, which also borrowed $150,000 to repair a water line. That loan has a 30-year life, but because the village was in default already, the bank couldn’t honor that loan’s life. In addition, an emergency repair to the roof on the fire hall will cost another $46,000. The mayor says those repairs can’t wait.

Mayor Johnson said the Chautauqua County Executive has been in touch with the village to attempt to find a solution. The matter will be discussed at a meeting on April 22 at 7 p.m. The deadline to approve the tax increase is April 30.

Residents are extremely unhappy about the proposed increase.

Lori Strong attended a public meeting Tuesday night and said, “Okay, so we’re all going to scrimp and save, we’re going to forget about Christmas, kids’ school clothes, textbooks, all that stuff, going to college, groceries, diapers, okay?”

Wayne Feinen was angry with village leaders, saying, “When your money doesn’t show up what are you going to do? Answer: bankruptcy. You guys blew it! $250,000 to take down a building? What the hell’s wrong with you people?”

The County Executive’s Office tells News 4 they aren’t aware of any illegal activity that led to this hike and will work with village leaders to find a solution, if they can.

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