I value people who are willing to reconsider their positions based on facts and differing views. I strive to do it myself. I’ve reconsidered the referendum to move village elections from March to November.
Initially, I thought it best to keep March elections. I’ve appreciated their local focus, outside the cacophony of town, state and federal elections. But I’ve scrutinized the pros of a November election, and I’m convinced.
It’s been argued that by moving our elections, the budgeting process will improve; newly elected trustees will have more opportunity to shape the next fiscal year’s budget. It’s compelling to have all five trustees accountable for the choices they make with our money. I’m not convinced, however, that this shift will facilitate capital planning. That should be happening throughout the year — thoughtfully, thoroughly. In fact, it’s probably more effectively done outside annual budget deadlines.
I’m following the current budget discussions closely. For the first time in my nine years in Cold Spring, an administration is really taking apart the budget, identifying where to conserve and where to be creative. Previously the budget process was cursory, superficial. Mayor Merandy and trustees Murphy and Early are doing superb work. The state tax cap is placing dramatic constraints on the village; we must consider service-sharing seriously. Shifting the election is low-hanging fruit — it recaptures at least $5,000.
Finally, folks argue that moving village elections to November will increase voter participation. I want them to be right. Get to the firehouse Tuesday, March 15 and vote yes on the referendum.
Kathleen E. Foley, Cold Spring
Budgeting is planning, whether for large purchases (capital, often involving calculations of buy or lease) or small. What the Village should do year-round is review all village activity with an eye to economize or improve; it should not try to “budget” year-round. The state mandates that a budget be prepared annually (due in April), and that budget should include a capital spending plan. This is because the capital spending plan will set the cash flow limits (based on debt obligations, lease payments, or outsourcing arrangements, etc.) that must be incorporated into the operating budget. The Trustees then review performance against that budget (monthly or quarterly), and make adjustments responding to deviations from plan (for example, the collapse of the housing market sharply reduced mortgage tax income a few years ago, and the budget had to be modified).
The March election has become a distraction to preparing a proper budget, and has weakened the sense of responsibility — the ownership — trustees should feel for decisions made in the budget review. Rote and cursory budget reviews have had the pernicious effect of excluding the public from a robust debate of village spending and revenue plans. While it may be possible for the village to do a good job with budgeting while keeping the elections in March, it is highly unlikely. Moving the election to November will correct the problem, and save over $6,000 each year.