Finding Fiscal Efficiencies

Cold Spring trustees look to cuts costs

By Michael Turton

Like all municipalities across the state, the Village of Cold Spring is grappling with the task of figuring out how to reduce its tax levy by 1 percent over each of three years. The plan to meet the state-imposed belt tightening was a major part of the agenda when trustees met on Tuesday, May 19. The fact that savings cannot be achieved simply by reducing line items in the budget is adding to the challenge. Instead, spending must be reduced through such methods as increased efficiency, cooperative agreements and mergers.

Thus far, Cold Spring’s elected leaders are relying on improved efficiency to meet the state mandate, perhaps a wise decision given the lack of success that the last administration experienced in a failed attempt to merge its building department with those of the Town of Philipstown and Village of Nelsonville.

Shifting election may spark debate

On Tuesday, the Village Board reviewed and agreed to a list of five potential items that could form the basis of a plan to be submitted to New York State outlining how fiscal efficiencies would be achieved. Mayor Dave Merandy commented that the list’s only really contentious item — the possibility of shifting elections from March to November — would be debated in a public workshop and that “everyone would be heard” before such a strategy could be adopted.

November elections would be run by the Putnam County Board of Elections, an annual savings of about $5,000. Former Village Trustee Airinhos Serradas was in the audience and commented that with a November election, “We’d lose our identity as a community … we don’t need national politics at the local level.”

‘Wiggle room’

The final efficiency plan can include items retroactive to 2012. A past measure that qualifies and is included on the preliminary list is the recent upgrading of the village telephone system, a change that saves taxpayers about $5,400 a year. Other items being considered include not hiring a parking enforcement officer, revisiting the cost of general liability insurance coverage and purchasing rather than leasing police department radios, another retroactive item, in that case funded through a grant from Entergy Corporation.

“The target is $15,430” in savings, Merandy said, while the preliminary list of five measures adds up to more than $24,000 in cost reductions. “We don’t have to use all of this (list) … There’s wiggle room,” he said.

Trustee Cathryn Fadde pointed out that the Cold Spring Police Department is currently short one officer and suggested consideration be given to not filling the position while hiring the parking enforcement officer, a move that would result in a net savings. She also suggested that health care costs for new employees be examined by fellow Trustee Michael Bowman, who is currently looking into village insurance coverage.

Trustees approved a request for proposals that paves the way for bids from companies interested in drafting design standards for the historic district as part of the ongoing update of the Village Code.

Members wanted

An attempt to establish two new committees that the new administration hoped would ease the workload for village trustees has met with limited success. Three people applied to serve on the Independence Day Committee to plan Fourth of July celebrations, however Merandy said one applicant doesn’t live in the village and another could only pledge a limited amount of time. That leaves former Deputy Mayor Bruce Campbell as a committee of one. Campbell has organized numerous village events in the past but as the mayor put it, “Bruce is going to need some help.”

The mayor also reported that a proposed Grants Committee that would look into potential funding sources for village projects has generated no response from residents. Instead, he has invited representatives of the Albany-based Le Berge Group, a consulting firm familiar with grant sources, to attend a future workshop to discuss the possibilities. Merandy met with company reps at the recent New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) in Saratoga Springs.

The Affair comes to Cold Spring

Cold Spring will soon serve as the set for two “shoots,” providing backdrops for still photography in Men’s Health magazine and video production for Showtime’s Golden Globe Award–winning TV series The Affair. Men’s Health originally requested a one-hour shoot on May 21 that would put $500 into village coffers. Merandy reported that their request was vague, has expanded to six hours and has become more complicated, involving use of more than just a portion of Main Street as originally proposed. He said The Affair’s proposal provided much more detail and offered $900 for an all-day shoot on June 8.

Trustees authorized the mayor to negotiate with both companies regarding fees, including possible extra billing if additional policing is required. Deputy Mayor Marie Early referred to the shoots as “a trial balloon” and said that the companies should be advised that Cold Spring is a “carry-in, carry-out village,” meaning that they should be required to dispose of their own garbage, leaving the village as they found it.

Fadde added that NYCOM uses such filming as an example of a revenue source that municipalities can benefit from. She also cautioned that production companies can simply “walk away,” as was the case when the filming of a scene for the feature film War of the Worlds, scheduled for the Cold Spring dock, was abruptly canceled several years ago.

Jeff Phillips, chair of the Recreation Commission, and Steve Etta, one of its members, discussed that group’s role with trustees, including the rationale for fees charged to residents and nonresidents for use of village parks. They will bring back more specific recommendations on such aspects as use of the bandstand for weddings and wedding photography, rental of Mayor’s Park and issues associated with use of the village dock.

One thought on “Finding Fiscal Efficiencies

  1. I guess nobody wants to talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room — namely the abolishment of the Cold Spring PD that would save not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of dollars. That sure is one hot potato!

    And here’s another thing: Why can’t non-resident business owners serve on these boards and committees? What sense does that make? I volunteered and sat on the Lighting Committee for the last year and we got a lot done as far as the holiday lights. Unfortunately, it now seems that the LC has disappeared, and I haven’t heard any plans to reconvene any time soon. At least nobody has contacted yours truly. By the way, I would have volunteered for the July 4th committee but the ads said “no non-residents,” period.

    I may not live in the Village, but I have an investment here plus my county and state taxes contribute to Cold Spring as well as the county and NYS. Certainly I should be considered a stakeholder.

    The more I read about the current Board of Trustees, the more I fear what I perceive is something of a negative attitude or at least a lack of understanding when it comes to the business owners and merchants of Main Street.

    If any of you trustees are reading this comment and would consider “allowing” me to be a volunteer on of your committees, just give me a call and I’ll be glad to help. I have a lot of experience and good ideas, plus I’m wiling to work. Can’t ask for more than that.