Village Struggles With Costs

Tight budget lives little wiggle room

By Michael Turton

The Cold Spring Village Board continues to grapple with a number of larger-than-expected expenses — all within a budget that increased spending by less than $2,000 because of a state-imposed cap of 0.73 percent.

And the state announced two weeks ago that the cap, which is tied to inflation, will be even lower next year, at 0.68 percent. It can be overridden only with a public vote, something that 25 percent of local governments in New York have done this year.

The unexpected expenses prompted Mayor Dave Merandy to express frustration at the board’s July 26 meeting. “I don’t know where we’re going to get the money,” he said.

As an example of the challenges facing the board, tree maintenance recommended by the Tree Advisory Board has already exceeded the 2016-17 budget after the board approved a $1,600 bid from Lee’s Tree Service of Cold Spring to trim a tree deemed hazardous at the corner of Garden Street and Northern Avenue.

In addition, the cost of liability insurance will increase by more than $3,000 annually on  Aug. 1, mainly due to coverage required for the wastewater treatment building constructed in the previous budget year. An audit by the Spain Agency also identified a number of pieces of equipment in the village highway garage that had not been insured.

Deputy Mayor Marie Early reported that area lighting to be installed as part of the Main Street Project could also cost more than anticipated. While the fixtures are not expensive (about $25 each), the eight new lights being proposed would increase the village’s electrical bill by more than $1,000 a year. For now, she said, one light will be added near the corner of Main and Rock streets to assess the quality and impact and the village might choose not to install all eight.

Improvements to Furnace Street are underway. (Photo by M. Turton)

Improvements to Furnace Street are underway. (Photo by M. Turton)

Meanwhile, the reconstruction of Furnace Street is the only major work remaining on the Main Street Project. Crews from Con-Tech Construction have completed drainage improvements and during the first two weeks of August will install new sidewalks, followed by two weeks to repave the street.

The board discussed a preliminary report from Trustee Lynn Miller suggesting policies regarding video productions shot in the village. Miller said she looked at practices in more than 20 municipalities. Fees paid to the village are a major consideration and she suggested a sliding scale based on the scope of production topping out at $1,500 for the first day of shooting and $1,000 for each additional day. Other provisions would include a  timetable for submission and approval of applications, a detailed production description, insurance considerations, security and notification to property owners. Based on the board’s discussion, it appears likely it will appoint a committee to consider applications. Miller will present a revised report at a future meeting.

In other business

  • A discussion of fees for water and sewer connections for the Butterfield redevelopment project was tabled. The proposed fee schedule has been sent to developer Paul Guillaro.
  • Trustee Steve Voloto thanked Dave Moroney Construction for completing repairs to the Cold Spring Firehouse roof at no cost to the village.
  • Merandy reported that work at the Cold Spring Boat Club is all but complete following remediation of toxic coal-tar deposits by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. A number of trees have been planted and the site regraded and seeded. The work that remains includes fencing and minor paving along New Street.
    Work at the Cold Spring Boat Club is all but complete. (Photo by M. Turton)

    Work at the Cold Spring Boat Club is all but complete. (Photo by M. Turton)

2 thoughts on “Village Struggles With Costs

  1. The chronic shortage of cash for emergencies (like trimming dangerous branches or taking down decrepit trees), and the inability to fund modest improvements, are symptoms of a bigger problem in Cold Spring: the failure of the Village board to establish a robust budget with a capital spending plan, and study the game-changing potential of rethinking police services, which costs tax payers over $400,000 annually. Those police services are duplicated at the county and state level, and to all appearance are mostly redundant, servicing a myth of “local control.”

    We see much time and energy spent by our trustees seeking small-dollar savings, often of just a few hundred dollars a year, when that same time and energy, directed to big-dollar items like police services, garbage collection and installing parking meters on Main Street would have so much more value.

  2. Mike Armstrong’s assertion is correct. Blaming the current financial constraints on the State tax cap alone is misguided. Instead it falls squarely on the Village Board and their priorities.

    In addition to the issues raised by Mr. Armstrong, the Village is currently in negotiations to give away the Village Building Department to the Town. Last year that Department generated over $50k in fees and with the continued construction of Butterfield – it would bring in more in the future. Yet the Village Board wants to give up their single biggest source of revenue, increase taxpayers costs, by helping the Town to pay benefits and salary for a full time employee, who isn’t under the Village’s control.

    Further, the legal costs associated with this current Village Board are astronomical in comparison to Board’s of the past. And these costs continue to rise as more lawyers are consulted and hired to deal with everything from cutting employee benefits to continuing to fight Butterfield on every single little detail. A full accounting of real up to the moment lawyer fees is something the the current Mayor owes to the voters of Cold Spring.

    So don’t blame the state tax cap for everything. Yes it’s a limiting factor, but the chosen priorities of the local Cold Spring Trustees, Mayor and “advisors” are the real culprit.