Rayland enjoying ‘remarkable turnaround’

RAYLAND – Positive reports about Rayland’s finances and infrastructure were given by Fiscal Officer Rick Soos and Village Administrator Rich Bibbo during a recent village council meeting.

“I am pleased to report that the financial condition of the village of Rayland is the best it has been in the three years I have been here,” said Soos. “All but one of our funds are currently in the black. The one fund that is not – the sewer fund – made a nearly $9,000 improvement in 2013 and is on its way, albeit slowly, toward the positive.

“This somewhat remarkable turnaround has been accomplished with hard work, shared sacrifice, frugality and a healthy helping of good luck.”

Soos pointed out the village’s general fund, which is the village’s great source of consternation, is in its strongest position in years.

He said this couldn’t have been done without several factors such as the implementation of the streetlight fee and the residents being willing to step up the plate and paying the fee for the collective benefit of the community and the streetlights’ continued operation.

Included among the other factors were that Mayor Tammy Morelli and the fire department agreed to a reduced fire services contract in 2013, that Solicitor Joe Vavra went to court and successfully had money transferred from dormant funds to the general fund and that a significant cost savings had been realized from the police department’s reduced working hours.

“But this all was done – thanks to a mutual effort across all departments and throughout the village,” Soos added. “It is amazing what can be achieved when working together.

He also reported that a few days before Christmas, the village unexpectedly received an inheritance tax settlement check from the county auditor for slightly more than $25,000.

“We now have the opportunity, if we stay the course and act prudently, to keep our general fund solvent through 2014. If we receive the gas and oil leasing money we expect, we have the opportunity to keep our general fund solvent through 2015,” commented the fiscal officer.

Soos also pointed out that a small village such as Rayland without a large industry and without a major miracle is always going to have tight budgets and is going to have to closely manage costs.

After noting the village always will have low wages, he indicated officials are always going to be faced with difficult decisions about the funding of the village’s fire and emergency services and regarding the parks.

Soos also mentioned the improvement of the village’s financial and organizational administration in recent years and an upcoming state audit before adding, “Two of our most crowning achievements in those regards in 2013 were the paying off of all of our past-due bills. We have gone from a village that was being charged penalties and late fees to a village that now receives discounts for paying within terms. Oh, yes, our progress has been noteworthy.”

Bibbo regards 2013 as “one of the better years, if not the best year, for the village of Rayland in the last decade.”

He mentioned the repairing and sealing of the Mazeroski Park walking track and basketball court as a result of a Jefferson County recreation grant and major donations of labor and material from Black Diamond Paving.

“The park continues to be the showplace of the village and each year, the village is inundated with requests for park reservations, which pays for most of the park maintenance,” he added.

Pointing out there hadn’t been a major waterline break in 2013, Bibbo said that helped the water fund to improve greatly, and the streetlight fund implemented by council helped the general fund.

The village last year received Community Development Block Grant funds to install new sidewalks on the west side of Main Street. Bibbo said the village was hoping for 100 percent sidewalk replacement but that wasn’t possible.

After noting Rayland didn’t handle and manage that project, he added,”We did manage to get about 75 percent of the sidewalk replaced, but we cannot be satisfied until we get 100 percent of sidewalk replacement on the west side of Main Street.”

The village administrator also said there is always room for improvement, but in regard to infrastructure, parks, buildins and streets, 2013 was a good year.

Looking ahead, Bibbo commented, “With the majority of infrastructure of the village in good to great condition, and with the possibility of a 2014 grant to replace 1,200 feet of antiquated sewer line and another grant to modernize the village’s Warren Street sewer pump station, the village of Rayland in 2014 may have its best infrastructure since the 1950s.”

Pokas can be reached at bettypokas@yahoo.com.