COXSACKIE — The village of Coxsackie has paid its residents’ water and sewer bills in an effort to help those struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Village residents received a letter marked “paid” in lieu of a second quarter bill, saving households an average of $150, Mayor Mark Evans said Tuesday.
But it does not appear that any municipalities in Columbia County have proposed paying their residents’ water bills, said Matt Murell, chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors.
The town of Stockport, where Murell serves as town supervisor, gave residents an extra month to pay their first quarter bills without incurring interest, he said.
The Coxsackie village hall has received an outpouring of gratitude from the community in response to the bill forgiveness plan, which will deduct more than $200,000 from the balance of the village’s water and sewer funds, Evans said.
The relief plan was made possible through prudent fiscal oversight of the village’s water and sewer funds over the last several years, the village leadership said in a letter to residents.
Village Trustee Joseph Ellis, a retired accountant, proposed the relief plan in late May.
Based on Ellis’s fiscal analysis, the village determined that it could absorb the cost of paying residents’ bills while at the same time maintaining an adequate balance in the Water and Sewer Funds, which is used to pay for maintenance and upkeep of the water supply.
Resident Mary Millett, a child-care provider, received a letter in the mail informing her that her water and sewer bill of $358 had been paid by the village.
“It was a great surprise,” Millett said.
Millett said her income has decreased as a result of the virus because she is taking care of fewer children.
“To save $358, that means so much to me,” she said, adding that she wanted to convey her gratitude to Evans for instituting the measure.
Millett isn’t the only one expressing her relief at the village’s forgiveness plan — the mayor and village trustees have been hearing from happy residents since the plan was announced by mail and on Facebook last week.
Village Treasurer Amanda Quinlivan said one resident called to find out her bill and was told she owed nothing for the months of April, May and June.
“She said, ‘I can give graduation gifts now,’” Quinlivan said.
The third-quarter water and sewer bills are not due until November, giving residents time to save up, Quinlivan added.
The mayor acknowledged that many village residents have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic.
“If we could do something to help, we thought this was a good way to do it,” Evans said.
Village Trustee Stephen Hanse said the village board was supportive of Ellis’s plan to assist Coxsackie residents and residents of Scheller Park in New Baltimore, who are part of the village of Coxsackie water district.
“We wanted to give folks one less to worry during this time of COVID-19,” Hanse said.
The mayor commended Ellis’s shrewd fiscal oversight of village finances, which he said made the relief plan possible.
Ellis has been a “dynamic force” behind the scenes, finding savings in the Water and Sewer Funds, Evans said.
“He is a tremendous asset to the village in many ways, especially with his knowledge of acccounting,” the mayor said.
The water and sewer funds are now in good financial standing, but that was not always the case.
The village had previously borrowed money from its general fund, which is funded by taxes, to prop up the water fund, which is funded by water and sewer bills, Quinlivan said. Through improved fiscal management, the water fund now stands alone and no longer relies on borrowing from the general fund, she said.
The village’s move to pay residents’ bills comes as many municipalities around the region warn of dire financial consequences as a result of falling tax revenue and lost state funding.
Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden, who lives in the village and was relieved of his $124, said he was not aware of any other water district in the county with plans to follow Coxsackie’s lead.