The potential good news came despite a significant shortfall in revenue from a traditional source, the mortgage tax
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Taking stock of its finances six months into its annual budget, the Village of Cold Spring expects to end fiscal 2010-11 with a surplus of about $40,000. Put another way, it anticipates being under budget by 40 grand. The potential good news came despite a significant shortfall in revenue from a traditional source, the mortgage tax, but with boons from new income streams, such as sale of recyclable trash. At $39,900, the anticipated year-end “extra” exceeds the windfall projected in the quarterly review in September by about $700.
Mayor Seth Gallagher, who serves as village budget officer, said in a brief report at the Dec. 14 Village Board meeting that the main change in revenue estimates since the quarterly review involves the amount collected in the mortgage tax. Initially, the village had estimated the mortgage tax to bring in $25,000 for the year. However, “the first half of this revenue item will be only $8,573, the lowest that the village has received in many years and considerably lower” than the comparable previous payment of $12,053. Village officials thus revised the budget to anticipate a yearly total of $17,500 in mortgage tax, down from the $24,368 received in 2009-10.
With Ellen Mageean, village accountant, Gallagher announced the six-month-review findings. Cold Spring’s municipal fiscal year runs from June 1 to May 31. “Based on the analysis, we’re anticipating being approximately $40,000 under budget for the year ending 5-31-2011,” Mageean said. “We’re expecting revenue to be about $13,000 over-budget. Our expenditures are expected to be about $15,000 under-budget” outright, with another as-yet unspent $12,000 from a pending Main Street improvement project. Citing various examples of under- and over-budget items so far, she noted that attorney fees are likely to be $2,000 less than expected while “the fire department we anticipate being over by $1,000, which is related to the siren,” re-set a couple of times last summer during a public controversy over twice-daily tests. Also, the snow removal equipment expenditure is likely to be under by $3,100 but public safety is likely to be over-budget by $4,500, including $3,000 in vehicle repair, Mageean stated. The garbage share also will be under-budget by $2,000, she said. The village expects to earn $2,400 for the year selling its recyclables.
Warning that “these figures are preliminary and certain to change,” the mayor said that with some $13,000 total in revenue greater than expected and $26,900 in under-budget savings, the village should realize “a net budget surplus of $39,900.” The earlier, quarterly projection had foreseen a surplus of $39,207. “Many things can change during the remaining months of the year, but this estimate at the half-way mark represents a more likely outcome than at the quarter and shows that the village is on very solid financial footing in these very uncertain economic times.”
Receipt of the draft Comprehensive Plan
In other business on Tuesday, the board’s formal monthly meeting, the mayor officially acknowledged receipt of the draft Comprehensive Plan, delivered to the village offices on Monday by the Special Board for a Comprehensive Plan-Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. By acknowledging receipt, he started the clock running, since within 90 days of acknowledged receipt the Village Board must hold a formal public hearing. He extended congratulations to the Special Board on finishing the draft. “This is, I think, a big step.” After brief discussion regarding the upcoming process, he tentatively scheduled a board workshop for Jan. 4 to review the document with the village attorney and representative from Green Plan, the consulting firm that assisted with the drafting. “If you do have ideas on things you want to change, that would be a good time to put them out there, so we can start to make those changes,” he told the trustees. “Basically, we’ve been looking at this plan for a while now. The more you’ve got ready to put out at that meeting, the better that’ll be.” Public comments could come at a subsequent workshop. “I would think to start out you’d want to keep it in-house,” Village Attorney Stephen Gaba advised the board. The Special Board also held public workshops and a two-part public hearing over the fall.
Main St. infrastructure project
Trustee Bruce Campbell reported that efforts are gearing up regarding the long-awaited $1 million, federally-funded infrastructure project on Main Street. Covering the blocks between the railroad tracks and Philipstown Town Hall, the project involves upgraded street lighting, sidewalks and handicapped-accessibility, related streetscape enhancement, and storm water management (in the area between Fishkill Avenue and the railroad tracks). “There’s a lot to it,” Campbell said. “We have to set a priority list. The drainage issue is kind of big, storm water management as well.”
Responding to a question from resident Thomas Ambrose, Gallagher said public input on the project is mandatory and would be sought in various ways, including formation of an advisory committee. A color map showing the proposed scope of the project will be available for viewing at the board’s Dec. 21 meeting, he said.
Coordination with standing boards
Also during the public comment period, Kathleen Foley, a member of the Historic District Review Board (HDRB), urged more interaction between her board and the Village Board. She pointed out that as the Village Board’s liaison, the mayor attends many HDRB meetings but she proposed a more consistent exchange between all the members of the two boards. Likewise, she proposed better communication and coordination among all the boards – Village Board and the standing boards of historic review, planning, and zoning. “We can provide better public service” that way, she said. Foley also recommended the village update the Cold Spring Architectural and Historic District Design Standards. “There are lots of ways to bring those up to date,” she said. As an example she mentioned allowing use of composite materials in renovations of historic-district structures. Virtually undistinguishable from the original construction, composite material is still largely off limits in Cold Spring but increasingly allowed in other towns’ historic districts, she said. Despite her suggestions, the HDRB so far has shown little interest in revisiting the Standards, she told the Village Board. “The older houses here are not museums,” said the mayor, who lives in an older home. “I think we do have to consider that” revision of the rules.