Also, pilot partnership with the Hub proposed
The Cold Spring Village Board inched closer to finalizing its budget for 2022-23 at its Wednesday (March 30) meeting, which lasted nearly three hours.
Minor revisions will likely be made to the spending and revenue plan at the board’s Wednesday (April 6) meeting and it will be reviewed at a public hearing scheduled for April 13 via Zoom.
The board can still make refinements after the hearing. Once adopted, the budget must be submitted to the state comptroller by May 1. The fiscal year begins June 1.
The general fund, which pays for virtually all operations except water and sewer (which are covered through user fees) is expected to be about $2.69 million.
Under a state tax cap, the village can increase the tax levy for 2022-23 by up to 6.3 percent. The current proposed budget would require a 2.16 percent increase. Trustee Joe Curto said he would like see the increase kept to less than 2 percent, which Village Accountant Michelle Ascolillo said would require a $3,500 decrease in spending or a similar increase in revenue.
The tentative budget calls for the water usage rate to increase 4.9 percent to 15 cents per 1,000 gallons, while sewage rates would increase by 10 percent to just over 11 cents per 1,000 gallons. Ascolillo noted that the fees have not been raised since 2004 and 2008, respectively. She said most village property owners would see an increase of about $10 annually for water and the same for sewer.
Mayor Kathleen Foley commented that the village is experiencing the same cost increases that families are facing. The goal of this year’s budget process, she said, is “to keep taxes as low as possible, while maintaining sound operating practices.”
Foley addressed questions she said have been raised about pay increases for members of the Village Board (the mayor earns $13,296, the deputy mayor $8,677 and the three other trustees $7,583 each). “For the record, there are none” planned, she said. “Increases are concentrated on staff.”
In response to a letter from former Trustee Marie Early, who questioned whether raises for staff are appropriate, Foley said that with $15 million in assets, the village needs to be run like a small business and retain knowledgeable employees over the long term.
The budget includes $6,500 to purchase four body cameras for the Cold Spring Police Department, although Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke’s request for security cameras for the Cold Spring Dock, Mayor’s Park and the Metro-North pedestrian tunnel, areas prone to vandalism, was taken off the table.
Burke suggested that the money that might have been used for cameras instead fund a program in which the Philipstown Behavioral Health Hub provides resources to officers when they encounter residents suffering from mental health issues or drug and alcohol addiction who are now taken to Putnam Hospital in Carmel.
The mayor and trustees were supportive and added $8,500 to the budget as seed money for the initiative. The village cannot donate funds to a nonprofit such as the Hub, but it can contract for services.
Board members recently met with the village attorney to discuss possible revisions to short-term rental regulations, which Foley called “a mess.” One shortcoming, she said, is that the Police Department is responsible for enforcement. “It is a civil matter, not criminal,” she said. Curto said he will rescind his permit to operate an STR so he can be take part in discussions.
Foley said the heavy stone driveway at Dockside Park is a temporary measure to prevent trucks and heavy equipment from causing damage while the state completes its shoreline protection project. A pedestrian path will replace the driveway, and vehicles will not be allowed in the park. She said the state doesn’t share village concerns over the impact of a boat launch proposed for the north end.
The mayor said “a lot has changed in the village” since the state held public meetings regarding the project in 2015, including a large increase in the number of visitors coming to Cold Spring. The board and Planning Board Chair Jack Goldstein have cited the likelihood of traffic congestion at the corner of North Street and West Street when boats are being dropped off at the park entrance, especially during the busy tourist season. Foley said she will continue to discuss the issue with state officials.
Jennifer Zwarich, chair of the Tree Advisory Board, said a number of trees had to be removed from Dockside recently because they were badly decayed and posed a safety hazard. Replacement trees will be planted.
Royal Carting, which recently took over collection of trash and recyclables, will deliver garbage bins on April 9 and recycling bins on April 16. Residents will be able to discard their current bins in a dumpster at the Highway Department.
Yard waste will be collected on April 14 and 28 and must be in paper bags.
The board has asked New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to extend its March 31 deadline, giving the village until the end of the year to complete the update of the village code begun by the previous administration. Chapters on zoning, noise and signage still need to be updated.
Sixth and seventh grade students in Haldane’s Design, Innovate and Create program are resuming work on a plan to add a skate boarding facility in Mayor’s Park. The project, put on hold due to the COVID pandemic, will be discussed at a future workshop.
Residents and the board discussed traffic problems created by large trucks trying to navigate narrow streets in the area of Railroad Avenue, Stone Street and Cross Street. Better signage, banning trucks from certain areas and other possible solutions were considered. The board will pursue the issue with Cold Spring Police Department.