A Special Meeting of the Board of Trustees to discuss the 2007-2008 Budget of the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, NY was held on Monday, April 9, 2007 at the Municipal Building, One Van Wyck Street, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520.
The following officials were present:
Mayor Schmidt called the meeting to order at 8:05. Everyone joined in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Manager Herbek reported that according to New York State Law, the tentative budget for 2007-2008 was filed on March 20, 2007. He stated that the total general fund budget is $16,004,537, which requires $10,321,085 to be raised by taxes resulting in a tax rate of $229.09 per $1000 of assessed valuation, which represents a 9.67% tax rate increase. A number of factors impacted the budget. Non-tax revenues increased overall by $585,736 due to projections from Westchester County indicate sales tax revenues will increase; proposed monthly parking permit rate increases; other permit related revenues; raising the daily parking fee at the train station; increase garbage disposal fees; and interest and earnings from fines and forfeited bail. For the appropriated fund balance, the use of $200,000 as the Village has for the last several budget cycles and an additional $200,000 from the Retirement Reserve. For the next fiscal year, the Village’s retirement contributions are increasing. All the departments tried to keep expenditure levels at about the same level as the last several fiscal years. The salary increases reflect union contacts and recommended increases for non-contract employees. An additional $33,000 is required for for GASB 34 and GASB 45 updates and compliance. $361,000 was budgeted to fund legal costs, which hopefully will be sufficient to meet our legal expenses. For individual departments: the position of Assistant Village Engineer is now required because of the volume of work and need to improve overall efficiency; the position of Administrative Aide was added in Records Management to keep up the website and assist the Village Manger with administrative work; an additional $60,000 was added to cover overtime costs related to the new patrol boat in the police department; a separate Ambulance/EMT department is proposed, as per the recommendation of the Fire Department; an additional Recreation Supervisor position was added to the Recreation Department and the additional $61,514 for anticipated costs relating to the Croton Point ball fields has been removed; and the library line has decreased from $100,000 to $35,000 and will be phased out in the coming years. Due to increased levels of borrowing the debt service fund is $195,717 higher than the 2006-2007 fiscal year. The water and sewer rates will increase by 7.3%. Capital improvement plan serves to guide future decision making of the Board on capital expenses and major improvements. The capital budget for 2007-2008 is broken down as follows:
Our auditors, Bennett, Kielson, Storch, DeSantis and Company have expressed that our financial condition is excellent. Mr. Herbek concluded by stating that he believes the proposed budget will meet the needs of the Village government in the coming years.
Treasurer Zambrano presented the attached power point presentation. The Board thanked Mr. Zambrano
Mayor Schmidt opened the Public Hearing to discuss the proposed Budget for the 2007-2008 Fiscal Year:
Chuck Trendell, 39 Batten Road, asked how much the budget would increase taxes and if it was the same as last year. Treasurer Zambrano stated that in the tentative budget the increase was 9.02% and that last year the increase was 9.43%. Mr. Trendell stated that he thinks that the economy will be slowing and the housing market will decline in the future; and that the Village should cut back on head count to save on salaries, benefits and pensions. He asked the Board to make budget as lean as possible.
Brian Aspenwall, 24 Park Trail, asked if the Board anticipated similar percentage increases for future budgets? If the cost-savings for the new separate EMS Department would pay for the required separate building? And why the ball field maintenance eliminated? Mayor Schmidt stated that with regard to the ball fields, the majority of the board decided not to take over the maintenance and running of the field. With respect to the EMS Department, both the fire Department and Village Staff have recommended creation of a separate department. The Fire Department is meeting about it, and there will be fine tuning, but it is an inevitable at this point. It will not cover itself, but the Village will receive some revenue where we do not right now. Mayor Schmidt stated that as for the future, the Board hopes not, but insurance and pension costs continue to increase. Manager Herbek added that litigation is also a significant cost born by the Village, and that hopefully in the coming year that will decrease. Mayor Schmidt stated that he is looking for ways to revitalize that will share the tax burden more evenly.
Eight non-resident commuters who use the Croton-Harmon Train Station spoke in opposition to the proposed parking rate increase for non-residents (from $235 per quart to $260 per quarter). They felt that the proposed increase is excessive compared with the services the lot provides. Specifically they mentioned: the lot is not properly cleared of snow, the lights are frequently burned out, the snow is not properly moved from pedestrian ways, the traffic pattern is dangerous for pedestrians, part of the lot floods and requires remote parking sometimes, the Village non-resident rate is the second highest in the County, and the Village earns about $2 million dollars a year from the lot.
Mayor Schmidt stated that the Village purchased the lot and is still paying debt service on the lot; that all the residents of Croton, even non-commuters, bear the burden of the lot because of increased traffic and pollution; that part of his job as Mayor is to ensure that residents of the Village can continue to afford to live in our community; that the train station parking lot revenues are a significant part of the budget; that he has heard the valid points the people made but that at this time raising the rates is necessary; and that the Village is actively seeking flood mitigation measures. He stated that an Engineering Firm presented three solid proposals to the Village Board to improve traffic flow and minimize the risk of flooding. Trustee Brennan stated that the flooding is a complex issue that will take some time to resolve. Treasurer Zambrano stated that the fees have not been raised for two years. Trustee Gallelli stated that researching fixing the parking lot is taking longer than expected and that needs to be considered. Trustee Konig stated that the Village cannot continue to raise rates; that the parking lot is a huge source of revenue for the Village; and that there may be other opportunities to gain income from the lot such as a Farmers Market. She stated that an 11% increase isn’t fair for residents or non-residents; that their complaints are not falling on deaf ears; but that the Board does not always have the exact response you want to hear at that moment.
Redwin Martin, Ossining, suggested that the Village allow the transfer yard to operate and charge tipping fees to increase revenue for the Village. Mayor Schmidt responded that allowing the transfer yard to operate is something that Village residents strongly oppose; Croton has been a countywide trash destination for too long; it is someone else turn; and as for the waste that is moved by CSX, the Village has no control over it.
Kevin Davis, 17 Woolf Road, stated that 65% of the revenue is from property taxes and 15% is from parking lot revenue, which means people who pay property taxes carry the primary tax burden. He also stated that he disagrees with continuing to fund the DARE program to the full extent. He supports prevention of drug and alcohol abuse, but thinks that the DARE program is failing and that the Village should devote its resources to a finding or creating a successful program. He recommends the Board do away with DARE in the seventh grade and let the health classes cover the material. Since there is not alternative at this time for the fifth grade program, he suggests the Village continue to fund the program while actively seeking a better alternative. Mayor Schmidt stated that he would like to work with Kevin to create this program.
Mayor Schmidt closed the public hearing.
At 9:35, Mayor Schmidt presented a motion to enter into Executive Session to discuss ongoing litigation involving 1A Croton Point Avenue. Trustee Gallelli motioned, seconded by Trustee Konig, and approved unanimously, 4-0.
Peggy Keesler, Village Clerk