Village Fiscal Year Ends with Surplus Board Considers ‘Booting’ Cars of Ticket Scofflaws

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

The Village of Cold Spring ended the 2009-10 fiscal year with a fund balance of $128,000, a positive turn after years of budget deficits, according to a financial report given the mayor and trustees Tuesday evening (Aug. 10). Accountant Ellen Mageean presented the data at the Village Board’s regular monthly meeting, held in the village hall on Main Street. She noted that the report remains unaudited and that when an audit occurs in September some of the figures may change. According to her report, the village had entered the 2009-10 fiscal year with a $473 deficit from the 2008-09 year.
       A State of New York Comptroller’s examination showed the village general fund had deficits of $37,276 in 2005-06; $127,286 in 2006-07, and $95,895 in 2007-08. Since then, Mageean has been hired as accountant and the composition of the Village Board has changed. The comptroller’s review, released in May 2009, found that between 2005-08 “the village’s deteriorating financial condition was mainly caused by over-expended budget appropriations, inaccurate accounting records, and unrealistic budget estimates.” The village fiscal year runs from June 1 to May 31. The village had set a general budget of $1,894,664 for fiscal 2009-10 (which excludes the water and sewer accounts). The current, 2010-11 budget is $2,070,629. For fiscal 2009-10, Mageean also reported water and sewer funds balances of $520,569 and $251,933, respectively.  
       “This is the first time in a number of years we have a positive fund balance, which is a huge step for the village,” said Mayor Seth Gallagher, who defeated long-time incumbent Anthony Phillips in the March 2009 election. “We basically had no cushion before.”
       “A couple of years ago, it was pretty scary,” with the village unable to pay bills because it didn’t know if it had sufficient funds, Mageean added. To comply with the comptroller’s recommendation, she advised that the village retain a healthy fund balance of $130,000 to $140,000, or about 1 percent of the tax base. Gallagher said the village departments had been urged to hold the line on spending and that each demonstrated “a lot of effort” in doing so. However, he cautioned, some of the savings realized probably will not carry over in the future. When the village finalizes a contract with the police officers, “we will have to pay some increases retroactively,” he said.
       Trustee Airinhos Serradas asked that when undertaking a planned vehicle purchases the police department “look at a hybrid” to save on fuel. The mayor concurred.

Booting Repeat Ticket Scofflaws
To deal with traffic-ticket scofflaws, the board discussed “booting” or towing cars of those who repeatedly refuse to pay their tickets, should the vehicle again be parked on a village street. Village Attorney Stephen Gaba told the board that, with safeguards, it can enact a law allowing booting or towing in such cases. The safeguards include provisions to allow drivers to retrieve their vehicles and proper advance notice of the law, as well as New York Department of Transportation approval for any booting or towing on state roads.  But the village can otherwise proceed, he said. “At least it would allow you to put some teeth into your parking law.”  As he wrote in a memo, “the law would be directed at `scofflaws’ who, by virtue of six or more unpaid parking tickets, had shown that they do not obey the village’s parking regulations and are likely to violate them again and therefore, if their vehicles are parked on the village’s streets they should be removed (towed or booted) “¦ as a matter of public safety and convenience.” The board took no immediate action.

Siren, Lighting Savings, Boats and Videos
In other businesses, Gallagher announced that the firm that calibrates the fire-alarm siren had adjusted it to cut the length of time the siren sounds in twice-daily tests and actual emergencies. Nearby residents have complained about the siren’s noise level and the Village Board scheduled a meeting on the issue for Wednesday, Aug. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in the village hall, 85 Main Street (a change from Aug. 17). The board also voted 5-0 to spend $8,000 in grant funds to install energy-efficient, upgraded lighting at the village highway and sewer facilities, with the work undertaken by two local firms, Marketing Works Now and Pidala Electric.  “It’s going to save us quite a lot of money,” the mayor announced.
       Subject to drafting of a mutually agreeable contract, the board agreed to a request from Serradas to hire Visual Touch Productions, owned by village resident Cecilia Mastrorilli, to videotape Village Board meetings,  at a cost of $2,500 or more annually. The mayor and Trustees Bruce Campbell and Charles Hustis joined Serradas in voting to approve the move. Trustee J. Ralph Falloon voted against it. “I don’t want to spend my money on it,” Falloon explained. “We’re still going to need to figure out where the money is to come from,” Gallagher acknowledged.
       Serradas also asked about large boats pulling up at the Cold Spring dock without permission. “Put a boot on them!” Falloon quipped. On a more serious level, he urged the village to accommodate touring vessels. “Those are potential customers. It’s kind of good for business,” he said. Serradas proposed that the village supply a floating dock, perhaps in a project undertaken by the Cold Spring Boat Club as part of its “quid pro quo” with the village. “I think it’s a great idea,” the mayor replied.

3 Responses to "Village Fiscal Year Ends with Surplus Board Considers ‘Booting’ Cars of Ticket Scofflaws"

  1. Lynn Miller   August 12, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    This sheds a different light on the claims of some that the Village budget is “out of control.”

    I’d like to hear more information about what use and purpose videotaping of Village Board meetings would be to either the Board of Trustees or residents. Would it be broadcasted on the public access channel? Will it be possible for residents to obtain copies of these video recordings?
    Should not this service be put out to bid in an RFP process so that the Village gets the best service for the money expended?

  2. Libby Anderson   August 12, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    Kudos to the mayor and the trustees for their diligent work on the budget. In view of the weak economy, ending the fiscal year with a surplus is a particularly meaningful accomplishment.

  3. Donald Mac Donald   August 17, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    How much do the village police earn now? does anyone know that?

    While I understand the principal of holding salary negotiations in executive session I believe the unintended consequence is we loose track of who earns what courtesy of the tax payer…