To the Editor:
I am proud to have voted for the 2016-17 budget, the second tax cap compliant budget that I have supported since being elected to the Village Board in 2014.
The Village Manager and the rest of the staff deserve credit for crafting such a budget. As Mayor Schmidt once said, “We as trustees, in this Village, do not really run the budget. The management staff runs the budget.”
Nonetheless, we, as elected officials, are responsible for providing the overall strategy for achieving our community’s goals. In some ways, our strategy is best reflected in our capital budget.
That’s why I sincerely hope the majority on the Board will reconsider key community projects that have been excluded or delayed. The planned reductions to the scope of the Croton Point Avenue project and its delay until 2018 are one such example. This is a project that won a federal highway grant some years ago, was endorsed by the Bicycle/Pedestrian Committee and whose plans were finally approved by the NYS DOT at the end of last year.
My Croton United Party colleagues have rationalized delay on the basis of fiscal austerity. However, I fear that this may be a case of false economy–a classic example of being pennywise and pound foolish. According to the Wall Street Journal, the consensus forecast among economists is for steadily rising interest rates, energy prices and inflation.
Higher costs for financing and construction could easily wipe out whatever benefits my colleagues in the ruling Croton United majority imagine they are winning for the taxpayer. Indeed, their course could mean that residents will end up paying more for these project–even as the public is denied the benefit of these improvements for years.
I hope that the Board will take these factors into consideration before making a final decision.
Also, it’s unfortunate that the majority on the Board chose not to increase the pay of the lowest paid Village workers, who make $8.25, to $9/hr–the state minimum wage (the Village is exempt from the state minimum wage, according to our labor counsel). This, despite the fact that the total cost of such an increase would be around $5,000–a fraction of an $18M budget and a sum that was dwarfed by increases in executive pay and other discretionary decisions made by the Board majority.
Maddeningly, an increase in the starting wage to $9 hour (and my suggested budget offsets) was rudely rejected by one of my colleagues in the Croton United Party majority. Injury was added to insult when the CUP majority made unnecessary discretionary payments that could have easily paid for increasing the wages of the Village workers making less than the minimum wage.
Despite these setbacks, I think there are opportunities for cooperation and that all of the issues I’ve raised here can be addressed.
Brian Pugh, Trustee