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Board of Trustees Minutes 04-12-04 Special Meeting
A Special Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, NY was held on Monday, April 12, 2004 at the Municipal Building, Van Wyck Street, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520.

The following officials were present:
        Mayor Elliott                   Trustee Grant                                           Trustee Schmidt         Trustee Wiegman 
           Trustee Kane                        Treasurer Reardon
        Manager Herbek          

        Absent: Attorney Waldman


        Mayor Elliott called the meeting to order at 8:04 pm.  
2.  PUBLIC HEARING:  Proposed 2004 – 2005 Annual Budget
Mayor Elliott asked Manager Herbek to summarize the proposed budget. Manager Herbek reviewed the key elements of the budget of $12,071.106 which requires $7,929,340 to be raised by taxes at a rate of $175.90 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.  This represents a 9.3% tax rate increase over the previous years budget.  He and Treasurer Reardon were pleased that they were able to keep the budget from going into double digits as has occurred in many other Westchester municipalities. The budget process begins in the fall when they prepare advance work sheets and, formally,  in January when Department heads submit budgets.  The Village Manager and Treasurer meet with each to go over the details and make modifications; sometimes it goes up and sometimes it goes down.  The major expense items this year are pension costs for the employee retirement system, pension costs for the Police retirement system, medical insurance and debt service.; represents 60% of  the increase.  The NYS Comptroller is being asked to make changes that would reduce it but doesn’t look like it will happen.  Legal expenses, primarily for Metro Enviro and the Pipeline, were well over a 1 million last year.  He is budgeting $100k for this year for both cases. The undesignated fund balance fund balance has dropped by $400k as a result of litigation expenses.  On personnel, the Teamsters contract expired over a year ago and despite a good attempt to reach agreement, the new contract has not been arrived at.  These costs are not included in this budget.  There hasn’t been a negotiation session in many months now which has to do with a change of leadership in the Teamster local.  $200k of fund balance is recommended to be used to keep the tax rate down.  Non tax revenue increases are mainly due to sales tax revenues this year; $120k is expected.  Assessed valuation is also up over $400k, mainly attributed to HMB Discovery Cove.  Special franchise assessments have gone down which is attributable to the decrease in our equalization rate. For the Water fund, they are not recommending raising water rates which are at $3.54 per 100 cubic feet of water.  The capital program, for infrastructure projects, includes $800k for projects this year.  The Village will be getting $75 k from CBDG grants and $50k from multi-modal funds.  The Village will need to issue $1.2 million in bond anticipation notes.  Our auditors, Bennett Kielson,  have expressed their opinion that the Village is in good financial condition.  We have an A1 bond rating thanks to Treasurer Reardon.   Copies of the budget are on the website and in the library.   This is a bare bones budget.   It is scheduled for adoption by the Village Board on April 26.

Mayor Elliott congratulated Mr. Herbek and Mr. Reardon on the super job they did on putting this budget together. He stated the Trustees meet individually with the Department heads to go over their individual budgets, line by line.  Residents can contact trustees as well as write in their comments on the budget. He opened the public hearing.

Robert Wintermeier, 43 Radnor Ave.  He spent a lot of time going over the budget – he is deeply troubled.  He seems to be the only resident who has a focus on what we pay in taxes.  Our taxes have doubled in the last 12 years. The challenge is to bring it down to last years increase - about 6%.  He is trying to do this based on his own business experience. We need to reduce it by 3% - $240k, at about $80k for each % point.  Our seniors cannot support this increase and the school tax increase that is coming this year.  The major expenses are retirement plans. He has no problem with the employee retirement plan or the health plan payments; does have a problem with the Police retirement plan because of overtime which he feels jacks up the cost.  He is also concerned about the amount of debt; have got to rein in the amount of money we are borrowing.  Some of this is due to grants.  He knows Manager Herbek thinks they are good but he disagrees on some of these things. He agrees Manager Herbek and Treasurer Reardon have done a good job.  The 6% loan on the parking lot is something he is concerned about; he would like it to be renegotiated so as to reduce it – too high for this day and age.  He wants a ‘share the pain’ program; need to freeze peoples salaries and executive compensation. Department heads should be held accountable for at least a 3% cut across the board in their department and they should look into a department. head bonus program based on how much they can reduce the year to year expenses.  

Police Overtime is one major area that needs cutting.  We brought on board new policemen as part of grant program a few years ago; saved money the first year but now we have to pay the costs for the additional police officer.  Overtime is only down $30k from last year; the 6-digit overtime number goes on year after year and this greatly affects the retirement plan. He suggests the Police Chief might get a 5% increase bonus for every 5 % decrease in the Overtime costs.

We need to either cut expenses or increase fees. On Recreation fees there is a $700k shortfall between what is taken and in and paid out. He feels increasing some fees would recoup some of these amounts.  We should look at higher fees for some activities and take another look at recreation rates;  some families in the village can’t take advantage of these programs no matter what, for instance the beach and marina. The sailing school has a nice deal. Even parking lot rates might be raised even though he doesn’t like to go there; drivers shouldn’t be subsidized by those who don’t use it.  Garbage removal, snow removal, permits and fines – all should be looked at as way to increase revenue.  

Mr. Wintermeier also praised reducing the sidewalk program amounts which he thinks they have done; it is a subsidy for certain rich residents. There should be a needs test for recipients. He paid for his and he doesn’t regret it.  He suggests that we be very careful about grants. On Business development, we need to cut red tape for businesses to come into the village; should make it easier for businesses to get up and running.  The Comprehensive Plan is not business friendly. We have already heard from lawyers and this will lead to lawsuits. Although it has done some good things, curb cuts, prohibiting drive in windows, etc. are all unfriendly to business.  Drive-ins are good for seniors and mothers.  He noted that the auditors’ rates are up over $15k over the last 2 years; should look into other auditors.  On page E-5 there is a line item that does not have a description – what is it?  He suggests that there should be employee involvement in reducing expenses. He feels the litigation account is not enough; the Comprehensive Plan is going to come back to bite us and we will be back in court fighting this.  The Metro Enviro and Pipeline items are items where we should continue the fight.  This is the second year of taking from the Fund balance, so we owe it $400k. This is misleading to the voters and should be replenished.  If money is given back from NYS it should be used to replenish this fund.  

The energy costs in the budget are too small and bound to be higher than anticipated – oil, gasoline, etc. On the NYS audit that took place, they hold the Trustees accountable; their recommendation was to hire an auditor.  The problems they identified were in three consecutive audits; we need to obey the laws that prevail.  Either do it or get the law changed.  On the $100k for the library, he suggests eliminating it and definitely not entertain the requested $20k additional; it does not belong in a municipal budget. Water rates are not going up this year;  but it looks like the rates will go up next year; he hopes not but expects it.  Central garage and DPW personnel costs have gone up dramatically. Why is this?  

He doesn’t think he has been curt, he’s tried to be civil.  He hasn’t rushed through it. We need to be concerned about people who cannot continue to pay these kinds of increases, especially seniors. He doesn’t want to get into investigating  double-digit budgets in other towns, they may not be similar to Croton.  He thought he would be limited to 5 minutes;  5 minutes would be more than adequate.  

Mayor Elliot closed the Public Hearing as no one else wished to speak.

a.  Authorizing the Village Manager to sign a contract on turf care for Village parks and fields
        On motion of  TRUSTEE Schmidt,  seconded by  TRUSTEE Wiegman,  the  
following resolution was unanimously adopted by the Board of Trustees of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, New York:  

WHEREAS, the Village over many years has bid turf care for selected Village parks, fields and other properties to include lawn maintenance involving spring and fall cleanup, mowing and trimming ; and

WHEREAS, at the Village bid opening of April 12, 2004 the Village received three bids ranging from a low of $39,987 to a high of $65,025 ; and

WHEREAS, the Village Recreation Department has reviewed the bids and recommends awarding the contract to the low bidder, New Image Landscape and Design for their bid of $39,987 ;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: that the Village Manager is hereby authorized to award a contract to New Image Landscape and Design for their bid of $39,987.

Discussion: Trustee Schmidt asked how it compared to last year; it is lower. Trustee Wiegman asked if the same services are being provided; yes.  

Trustee Grant commented on Bob Wintermeier’s presentation and thanked him for the tone in which he gave it.

On a motion by Trustee Grant, seconded by Trustee Kane, and unanimous agreement, the meeting was adjourned at 8:47 pm.

Respectfully submitted
Ann H. Gallelli, Secretary

Village Clerk