A Public Hearing on the budget of Croton-on-Hudson, NY was held on April 10, 2006 at the Municipal Building, Van Wyck Street, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520.
CALL TO ORDER:
Mayor Schmidt called the meeting to order at 8:00 p.m. Everyone joined in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Village Manager Herbek reported that he has filed the tentative budget for fiscal year 2006-07 which starts June 1st and runs until May 31st of each year. He stated that the total General Fund rate is $17.99 higher than 2005-06. The budget was prepared in accordance with article 5 of the NYS law; preparations were started in early January; they met individually with each department, thoroughly scrutinized requests and make changes when justified. Several factors made an impact on the budget this year. The budget message is on the Village web site along with all budget documents. Non-tax revenues have increased; they have tried to keep expenditures steady; the majority of costs are of non-discretionary nature; salary levels are going up in accordance with union contracts and salaries are a major part of the over-all budget. He added that legal expenses this year are budgeted at $317,549; legal costs have been significant, primarily due to the on going litigation of Millennium Pipeline and MetroEnviro. A new company, NIR, is trying to take over the assets of Allied Waste; they are now in court and want to start operations again as soon as possible. Village Manager Herbek anticipates that legal costs will continue at increased levels compared to the last several years. The defense of the Millennium pipeline has cost over $700,000 and the MetroEnviro issue has cost in the neighborhood of $740,000. Croton has been very fortunate that they have been fiscally conservative and have been trying to keep the fund balance steady to help pay for these legal costs; if they didn’t have a fund balance, the tax rate would be going up at a higher rate. Regarding personnel, the teamsters’ contract is due to expire; the Police Association contract will run until 2009. There were requests for 4 additional employees. The Recreation Dept requested 1 additional supervisory position, Ken Kraft, DPW, requested 2 additional labor positions and a request for 1 additional police officer; the work load in all these departments has increased; however, in consideration of a relatively high tax increase, he decided to eliminate the request for an additional Recreation Dept employee and one additional DPW labor position and keep the police position and 1 DPW laborer position in the budget. The Fund balance is at about the 2 million dollar level and they recommend using about $200,000 from the fund balance to keep the increase down; they will be evaluating that and would like to ratchet that down in the future. What hurt was the assessed valuation which decreased this year, attributable to the settlement agreement with Hudson National Golf Course. Regarding the Water fund, they are recommending increasing water rates; this is necessary to keep the Water fund in balance and represents about an 8% increase over last year. This is the first year establishing a sewer fund and it will be charged on everyone’s water bill. Regarding the Capital program, they are recommending comprehensive infrastructure maintenance and will need to borrow $1,394,000 in bond anticipation notes. Discussions on these projects are continuing with the Board. The Village’s financial condition is excellent; the Treasurer and his staff watch how money is spent along with conscientious department heads. With this budget they will be able to keep the A-1 bond rating and keep the Village moving in a positive direction in the years ahead. Village Manager Herbek added that the entire budget is on the Village web site and copies are available in the Village office or the Croton Free Library. The Board of Trustees has had a number of budget work sessions and has met with the Fire Dept., the Police Dept., Public Works Dept. and the Recreation Dept.
Treasurer Abe Zambrano gave a Power Point presentation, a copy of which is attached.
Village Manager Herbek added that they are prepared to discuss the master fee schedule with the Board.
Tex Dinkler, 50 Batten Road, stated that he was present to represent residents of Batten Road and they are glad to see action is starting on the storm water problems they have been having;
Bob Wintermeier, 43 Radnor Ave., thanked Mayor Schmidt and Trustee Brennan & Jim Steinberg for cutting the tax increase they inherited last year; they set a standard which was a 40% decreased, he had hoped to have seen the same in this years budget. He added that the proposed tax increase was not 9.43%, it was higher than that, but they moved the sewer out of general funds; the golf course will pick up some of would have been paid by residents. Addressing the Police Dept. Mr. Wintermeier stated that he thinks it is important to have a full compliment of 21 officers; they hired one about 45 days ago, but understands that now one is going to retire shortly; he recommended sticking with 21 to reduce overtime which has continued to grow; they have never had a total of 21 except for a few months. He suggested taking a look at the number of officers, the number of months budgeted and the overtime. He added that last year, the Board deferred one police car purchase and there was no safety issue encountered, perhaps this Board can do something about deferring the second car. The Police Dept. concerns are due to administrative work, perhaps the use of a secretary to relieve some of the officers’ work load and to not encounter overtime; this will help productivity and morale; also use outside sources for firearm instruction. Mr. Wintermeier stated that he was in favor of the $50,000 grant for the fingerprint program. The Fire Dept has a dire need for a new cell tower and also needs sprinklers in the fire department buildings; they are missing heads; please address this; he also suggested back-up generators and moving funds to a fireman’s trust fund is appropriate. Regarding the DPW, retirees is a key concern; they should identify key skills, so they will not be hiring more experienced people rather than training from within. Flood control that was started last year should continue with that; he would like to see the results of the study. Mr. Wintermeier, regarding the dumpster policy, he recommends the Village provide & repair for commercial companies, if the Village breaks them. The Croton Landing road repair project, may want to consider deferring road repairs-the road is adequate for walking. Regarding the DPW’s all purpose truck where they could add attachments; he is concerned about investing until more research is done. Regarding the Recreation Dept., he can only recommend the possibility of raising fees which is the only way to make sure that the fee matches attendance and covers expenses. He added that he is not against the library but the Village currently funds $100,000 which is unaccounted for; he believes it belongs in a library fund or school budget fund; should not mix municipal and library budgets. Regarding the legal costs, the budget includes the Millennium project; if it is truly behind us, take a look at the money allocated, see if perhaps they can reduce or take out of or add funds to the eminent domain fight. He recommended that a farmers market could be a source of revenue at the parking lot. Mr. Wintermeir stated that last year the Board prioritized, deferred some items and cut some projects; they did an excellent job and ran the budget like a business.
Trustee Brennan stated that the sewer rent has saved a 2% tax increase; any surplus will be put into a dedicated fund for future sewer repairs or large project to pay off any debt incurred. It also more evenly distributed the fee by water use. They ended up buying 1 police car from last year’s budget and it has never been used; there also was an allocation for a 4x4; he wants to be fiscally prudent. Trustee Brennan stated that he did some research on the anti-icing equipment that Ken Kraft has requested, he contacted every municipality that borders Croton and also the DOT, the majority of these do not use this type of equipment; in the state of NY it is only used in Kingston and they did not seem too crazy about it now; he will discuss further with the Board; it is a costly purchase. He addressed Mr. Dinkler about the Batten Rd improvements; he is also glad they are moving ahead and have corrected the oversight.
Joel Gingold, Nordica Dr., addressed the capital budget; the largest single appropriation is for the Recreation Dept. and asked what projects that covers. Village Manager Herbek replied that the Great Lawn or Field in Croton Landing is being evaluated. He added that $275,000 is the Village’s contribution to the Riverwalk project; the County’s planned contribution for the Riverwalk is 1.8 million dollars; the County will build a whole new park and with these two projects, Croton will have a very nice facility. Mr. Gingold stated that the increase is about 8% which is more than double of general inflation and asked if this is mostly associated with employee benefits. Mayor Schmidt replied that it includes benefits plus salaries. Village Manager Herbek added that there also have been energy increases and debt service increases. Mr. Gingold asked if employees contribute to medical and retirement benefits. Village Manager Herbek replied that there is a contribution on the part of the Police Dept. through 1st grade patrolmen. Mr. Gingold suggested that this be considered in upcoming negotiations. Mr. Gingold stated that regarding the allocation for legal expenses, may he assume the Village is getting an award from ABA for this? Mayor Schmidt replied that this money has been spent and allocated over several years, not in the last year as it may appear and it protects the quality of life, health & safety; it has been costly, but well worth the battle. Mr. Gingold asked if the current budget includes an allocation for the Pipeline. Mayor Schmidt replied that it does and he hopes this ends quickly and soon so money can be allocated for other projects.
With no further comments from the floor, Mayor Schmidt closed the Public Hearing on the budget at 9:05 pm. The Board will meet after adjournment and continue to a work session to discuss the budget. The public is welcome to attend these meetings.
Trustee Brennan made a motion to adjourn; seconded by Trustee Gallelli, all in favor.
Phyllis A. Bradbury, Secretary