VILLAGE OF CROTON-ON-HUDSON, NEW YORK
PUBLIC HEARING - MONDAY, APRIL 12, 1999
A Public Hearing to hear citizens' comments on the proposed Village Budget for fiscal year 1999-2000 was held on Monday, April 12, 1999 at the Municipal Building, Van Wyck Street, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520.
The following officials were present:
Mayor Elliott Trustee Daubney
Village Manager Herbek Trustee Grant
Treasurer Reardon Trustee McCarthy
Village Attorney Waldman
1. CALL TO ORDER:
Mayor Elliott called the meeting to order at 8:05 PM. Everyone joined in the Pledge of Allegiance. Mayor Elliott asked Village Manager Herbek and Treasurer Reardon to give an overview of the proposed 1999-2000 budget.
Village Manager Herbek explained that the Village Budget is the village's financial plan for the upcoming fiscal year. As required by law, on March 20 we filed the tentative 1999-2000 budget for the village. It requires $5,940,765.06 to be raised by taxes and a tax rate of $140.64 per $1000 of assessed valuation. This proposed rate is $7.60 higher than the rate for 1998-1999, which represents a 5.71% tax rate increase.
The appropriation increase is $147,316 higher than in fiscal year 1998-1999 and actually this is excellent, especially taking into account the planned expansion of the new firehouses and the repairs to the Croton Harmon Parking Facility. The staff and I have thoroughly reviewed each appropriation line and achieved decreases in expenses throughout the entire budget. This represents a 1.64% increase which is in line with the Consumer Price Index of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
General Fund revenues have been reduced by $251,184 from last year. This year's budget is missing $165,000 of debt service transfers which were totally expended in last year's budget. In addition, we have eliminated the reliance on tax lien sale revenues which cannot be
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guaranteed to be forthcoming, thus giving us a more realistic expectation of non-tax revenues. The balance of the reduction comes from our non-resident permit sales at the parking facility. Our daily permit sales have remained flat, while our non-resident permit sales have decreased. The expected improvements to the Croton Harmon Station Parking Facility will also negatively impact our parking lot revenues during the Phase II reconstruction period which is scheduled this summer.
A major accomplishment with respect to this year's budget is our reduction in the use of the appropriated fund balance. We have decreased our dependence from $310,196 to $240,000. This move was prompted by our discussions with the Office of the State Comptroller stemming from their analysis of our financial condition. The concern had been that the proper fund balance had been dipping below $1,000,000 and that had occurred in three of the last six fiscal years. We have come to the conclusion in discussions with our auditor and the State Comptroller's Office that a local government of our size should maintain a fund balance of approximately $1,000,000.
Another factor in keeping the tax rate this low while anticipating major construction projects was the restructuring of current debt which actually helped keep our debt service payments lower than last year.
With respect to assessed valuation, this has increased by $1,070,395 mostly attributable to the building of new single-family residences at the River Landing, Arrowcrest and Westwinds subdivisions. We are hopeful that this upward trend will continue over the next few years, taking into account the Planning Board's recent site plan approval for phases 3, 4 and 5 of Half Moon Bay.
The water fund will be increased from $3.23 per 100 cubic feet to $3.39 per 100 cubic feet which stems from the ongoing improvements to the Village water supply system. This represents an increase of 4.95% and is required to keep the water fund in balance.
We have a number of capital projects that are included in the 1999-2000 Capital Fund. All of these are important for the future needs of the village and will require issuing $654,000 in bond anticipation notes. Given our current debt service, this should not be unduly burdensome to the village. As we have in past years, we will continue to proactively seek grants wherever possible to help offset the cost of these projects as we continue to make improvements to benefit the village as we head into the new millennium.
Manager Herbek thanked Village Treasurer, Robert Reardon, for the changes he had made in the format of the village budget which will help him and the village account for and control expenses in the next fiscal year. Mr. Reardon has been working very hard on this for a number of months to put the budget in a slightly different format to make it more understandable for all concerned. The budget is very readable and understandable and we
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both think that this tentative budget is a very good one which will meet the needs of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson in the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
Manager Herbek continued, in addition to the regular kinds of activities and functions that the village government provides, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss a few of the major accomplishments of our departments in 1998-1999.
With respect to sanitation and recycling, we have changed and consolidated the sanitation and recycling routes. We have improved our fall leaf collection efficiency with a new leaf loader and recycling truck modifications. We have begun a program of replacing the sidewalk containers starting in the upper village and we would like to continue that throughout the village. We have replaced a sewer line on lower Prospect Place. We paved travel strips in the Phase 1 area of the Croton Harmon Station Parking facility. We have regraded the Phase 1 gravel area. We have installed new doors at the Police Headquarters entrance and repaired the interior of Police Headquarters. We have upgraded the underground gasoline and diesel storage tanks and installed a new pump system at the municipal garage. We have paved Scenic Drive West, Batten Road, Cleveland Drive, Hessian Hills Road, Harrison Street, Church Street, Riverview Trail and Pumphouse Road. We installed a new storm drain system on Old Post Road North, new guide railing on Batten Road and Nordica Drive and have begun to repair the bluestone slates in the upper village.
In the water area, we have replaced 20 fire hydrants, repaired water mains and replaced defective valves on Benedict Boulevard, Wayne Street and Arlington Avenue, eliminated a meter pit in front of the High School, improved the operating efficiency of well #4, repaired the Hessian Hills tank which is a reservoir and eliminated an old 2" main on Whalen Avenue.
In the recreational vein, we have installed a new and improved ball field lighting system at Fireman's Field. We have completed the design work for a new playground at Sunset Park and Dobbs Park in line with our program of continuing to make improvements to all of the village's parks and recreation areas. We constructed a brand new pavilion and walkway at Senasqua Park and installed a new roof on the bathhouse. A brand new trail has been constructed from Silver Lake to the dead-end of Cleveland Drive that is just magnificent. We have provided additional planters, holiday flags and wreaths which are installed throughout the village during the holiday period. We had our centennial last year and there were many activities associated with that, probably the largest of which was the Centennial Gala at Van Cortlandt Manor.
I am not going to go through things in the police and fire area. They do such a great job for the village on a regular basis. We worked very closely with the Fire Department on the public referendum that was approved to spend $3.2 million on the demolition and reconstruction of the Harmon firehouse and the major improvements that will take place to the Grand Street firehouse.
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In the village office, the Village Treasurer has upgraded the computer system and the new system uses a state-of-the-art operating system which allows for greater speed and accuracy. It has enabled the village to face the challenge of the Y2K dilemma. In addition, the new system has twice the capacity for storage as the former system.
With respect to the borrowing for the new firehouses, we needed to have an intelligent strategy to prevent this from having a major financial impact on the taxpayer. In anticipating the success of the referendum, Treasurer Reardon began to restructure the village's debt and succeeded in lowering the cost of our current debt management. The greater success was including the new debt in the equation while still maintaining a lower cost than 1998-1999. To further enhance the debt management savings, he succeeded in obtaining an A-1 bond rating for the village. This was given to us by Moody's Investment Service and it is two steps below the best rating we could have received which is triple A. I don't know of any municipalities which have a triple A bond rating except Westchester County. We proved we are among the best credit risks in the county and it allowed us to lower the cost of our debt servicing on restructured debt, as well as any future debt.
As I mentioned before, a very significant accomplishment was in the budget process itself. We have a brand new budget document that is easier to read and understand. It has been a busy but productive year for the village and if you take a look at our capital budget for next year, we are also looking forward to an extremely productive year. A lot of the grants we had applied for we have received and now we begin implementing those particular projects.
For anyone who is interested, there are copies of all of these documents in the Village Office but we wanted to give the public an opportunity to have a little bit of an understanding as to what is in the budget. It is a financial plan and we believe it is a good budget. We have worked hard on it and spent months going over it before we presented it to the Village Board on March 20, 1999. The Board has been reviewing this document very carefully. They have had an opportunity to meet with department heads and they have also met on some executive session matters.
Mayor Elliott opened the hearing for public comments.
Bob Smith requested a copy of Manager Herbek's statement and stated that he had received a copy of the proposed budget. He inquired how much the budget increase was. He stated the only figures given are the tax rate increase. It looks to me as if the budget increase is 1.68%. I have a problem with the figures on the tax levy and the tax rate per $1000. According to my records, I paid taxes at $130.02 for 1998-99.
Mayor Elliott suggested that Treasurer Reardon explain the difference in the amounts but Bob Smith stated that there was no need as he understood it now because they had discussed it. He stated my problem is that the actual increase to the taxpayer is 8.17% and I think the public has a right to know.
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Treasurer Reardon stated that the problem he had was that the net assessed valuation figures were incorrect so he was faced with the dilemma of using the numbers from the prior year which were incorrect or showing the actual numbers. He stated irrespective of the number that launched last year's budget, he had to make adjustments to the budget in lowering expenses to actually conform to the true number. I felt the number we should go with for 1998-1999 was the actual number that it was, rather than the incorrect number.
Trustee McCarthy stated Bob Smith makes a really good point about what the real dollar effect to people is. From the accounting standpoint, Mr. Reardon had to make the adjustment that he made to reflect the rates as they should have been but the actual dollar impact to people if the budget stays the same is going to be an 8% increase from what they paid last year.
Bob Smith stated the public doesn't know about this problem, that the tax assessment rate was lower than it should have been last year. As I see it, a big part of your problem is that the revenue part is going down. He asked the reason for this decrease.
Treasurer Reardon stated there are two main reasons. The biggest reason which amounts to $165,000 is a transfer from Debt Service. Without going into full detail, Debt Service is a fund that is in its own bank account and has revenue that is derived from interest earned by the capital fund and any defunct projects that have money remaining in them. Last year's budget took the entire amount of debt service money and brought it into the General Fund, leaving no money in the Debt Service fund. By the end of May, I am looking at trying to help the Board lower this figure somewhat. At this point in time, I don't have enough to even satisfy the budget that we're in but I hope to by the end of the year. That was something out of my control. In addition, $50,000 was removed by me for tax lien anticipation. That is, we are anticipating that people who have not paid their taxes will actually come forth and pay them. The balance of the $253,000 is what Mr. Herbek has alluded to in reduction of permits in the parking lot. If we're going to restructure and repave phase II, that portion of the parking lot will be unusable for the summer months. Consequently, the revenues will go down.
Bob Smith noted that employee benefits appear to him to actually amount to 16.3% of the total budget. He feels that employees should pay for part of their medical benefits and urged the Board to be firm in trying to bring this to fruition.
Bob Smith asked what is happening on the county level for tax relief for the people who do not have sewers.
Mayor Elliott responded that at the next County Legislative meeting which is May 1st, if all goes well, the Legislature will vote on relieving the tax for a substantial majority of the houses that are not sewered but are being taxed.
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Bob Smith requested that the Board try to get more people to attend the budget hearings in the future.
Trustee Grant agreed and advised that she had attended a senior citizens meeting to give them a general overview of the budget. She stated we should make a mental note to go around to various organizations next year.
Bill Falter complimented the village on the fine job they have done on Batten Road. He also thanked the Board for their ongoing support on behalf of the Croton Caring Committee.
Roland Bogardus stated he was present to support the Croton Caring Committee and requested the continued support of the village.
There being no further citizens desiring to be heard, Mayor Elliott adjourned the public hearing at 8:50 PM.
Dianne Weeks, Secretary