Ann Gallelli: Responsible Fiscal Planning for Our Village

To the editor,
At last week’s Village Board work session, the Board met with the Village’s auditors to review their audit for FY 2014/2015. One of the items on which there was much discussion was the Village’s Fund Balance.
As background, the General fund is the Village’s operating fund for which property taxes are levied. Taxes are levied to pay for expenditures that are anticipated to be greater than revenues. At the end of each fiscal year, any money that was levied and not used, is put into the Fund Balance account. It is an operating surplus. There are many reasons why there can be a surplus including warm winters, or higher sales tax revenue, unexpected income, among others.
Not all of the Fund Balance account is available for spending, however. For instance, monies assigned to advance purchase orders, added to the budget appropriation, advanced to other funds, reserved for future benefits, etc. are not available for spending.
As of the end of the Fiscal Year 2014/2015 the Village’s total Fund Balance was $7,068,091 but the amount that was unreserved or undesignated was $4,934,653. This amount of Fund Balance represents about 29% of the total appropriations, a little higher than is the standard recommended.
Developing a Fund Balance Policy to plan for the use of operating surpluses is recommended by both the auditors and the NYS Comptroller. Such a policy would specify how the available Fund Balance might best be allocated. The policy could identify some long-range projects that will require large expenditures and direct some money to that future use when there is a surplus. In the long-run, this would provide a cushion against the future expenditure for those projects and possibly reduce the amount of bonding for it.
As a Board member over the last several years in which the Village has consistently met the Tax Cap and Tax Freeze requirements and the Fund Balance has continued to grow, I am in favor developing such a Fund Balance policy to plan for major future expenses. I believe everyone at the meeting was on-board with this direction. I look forward to the development of a Fund Balance policy for the Village.

Ann Gallelli

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Brian Pugh: Improving Village Communications

To the Editor:

The new Croton United party majority on the Village Board continues to trumpet its supposed improvement to Village communications under their administration. Sadly, from my perspective as one of the two remaining Democrats on the Village Board, this has not happened.

A recent example: As many know, there was an Indian Point siren test last Wednesday. Even though we live in the mandatory evacuation area, there was no notice from the Village as to whether the sirens were a drill or the real thing.

There was no e-mail or telephone notice from the Village to residents despite the fact the Town of Cortlandt and Westchester County both sent out electronic notices. I even made a note of the Indian Point siren test in my report a last Monday’s Village Board meeting and in an e-mail to the Mayor.

As your Village Trustee, I will continue to be an advocate for transparency and communication and will work to hold the administration accountable to the public.

Regards,

Brian Pugh

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Ann Gallelli: Village Residents Deserve Communications Choices

To the Editor,

Recently, New York City decided to litigate against Verizon for their alleged failure to complete the terms of a FIOS contract they had with the city. The article reminded me of Croton’s own situation with Verizon when, after installing FIOS infrastructure throughout the Village, they made a corporate decision to not engage in any more FIOS contracts with municipalities. Since many residents still ask why we do not have FIOS service in the Village, I thought it might be worthwhile to review what happened.
At the time (2007), the Village invited Verizon to engage in a contract to provide local competition for television services. Cablevision was, and is, the only provider with a contract with the Village. The Village hired specialized legal counsel to negotiate with Verizon and negotiations proceeded for a while. The Village even made a change to its local Telecommunications law to accommodate Verizon. Unexpectedly for the Village, Verizon broke off the discussions. With many residents having an expectation that they would be able to the choice of having FIOS service, the Village tried to re-engage with the company but to no avail.
It turned out that Verizon’s decision affected many municipalities in the area as well as major cities across the country. Those municipalities that already had a contract for FIOS service continued to be served (ex. Town of Cortlandt ) but all others no longer had the option.
Over the years since, some residents have pursued their own investigation of what happened but all have arrived at the same place; Verizon is not continuing the business of providing new FIOS service anywhere. They have made a commitment to redirect their resources to the wireless environment.
As I feel having choices is good for the Village, as a Trustee, I will keep looking for opportunities to expand residents’ options in the future.

Ann Gallelli

Brian Pugh: Remembering Suicide Prevention Month

Dear Neighbors:

As we approach the end of National Suicide Prevention Month, I would like to reiterate the importance of facing the public health challenge posed by suicide.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages, exceeding murder or car accidents, according to the CDC. But we can work to prevent it.

An important local resource is the Westchester Department of Community Mental Health, which recommends calling one of the following number in the event of a psychiatric emergency:

• Crisis Prevention and Response Team at (914) 925-5959
• National Suicide Hotline (800) 273-TALK or (800) 273-8255
• Or, 911, as in any emergency

Suicide affects people of all ages, races and backgrounds. However, by being informed, perceptive, proactive and supportive, we can help protect our families, friends and community from suicide.

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh

Brian Pugh: Unity Trumps Bigotry

9152016-bp-lte-imageTo The Editor,

At Sunday’s 9/11 Memorial Ceremony at Croton Landing, as I sat with Mayor Dr. Greg Schmidt and Trustee Ann Gallelli, I was struck by how speaker after speaker recalled the sense of unity and common purpose in days after 9/11. Although I was only a high school student at the time, I too remember a bipartisan commitment to tolerance and mutual respect for our fellow Americans.

I hope that 15 years later, people of good will remember and continue to speak out for these principles.

“The attacks of September 11 were intended to break our spirit, instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom,” said NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani in December 2001.

“America rejects bigotry. We reject every act of hatred against people of Arab background or Muslim faith America values and welcomes peaceful people of all faiths — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and many others. Every faith is practiced and protected here, because we are one country. Every immigrant can be fully and equally American because we’re one country. Race and color should not divide us, because America is one country,” said President George W. Bush, in April 2002.

Yet today, I feel that there has been a tragic turn by some politicians, from the presidential level on down, towards exacerbating xenophobia and pandering to prejudice.

And these words have consequences. “Setting aside moral considerations, those who flirt with hate speech against Muslims should realize they are playing directly into the hands of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The terrorists’ explicit hope has been to try to provoke a clash of civilizations — telling Muslims that the United States is at war with them and their religion. When Western politicians propose blanket discrimination against Islam, they bolster the terrorists’ propaganda,” warned former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus earlier this year.

This rhetoric also emboldens homegrown extremists. Hate crimes in America dipped across the board–except in the category of anti-Muslim crimes, which rose about 14% percent over the prior year, according to the latest FBI statistics.

I hope that we will continue to keep our community safe and speak out against prejudice when we see or hear it.

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh

Ann Gallelli: A Thank You

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To the Editor,

The 9/11 Remembrance ceremony at Croton Landing was a beautiful and moving event. The three communities that have established this memorial did a wonderful job in creating a meaningful ceremony.
Although, they were recognized individually at the ceremony, I think it is worth remembering that without the efforts of the Volunteer committee which came together to create a 9/11 memorial in our town, the beautiful ceremony we had this week, and have been having for the past few years, would not have happened.

The members of the committee show what a group of people committed to an idea can achieve. Thank you to every one of them.

Ann Gallelli

Ann Gallelli: Ban the barges.

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To the editor,
Last week I attended a meeting organized by Assemblywoman Sandy Galef regarding the proposal to designate additional anchorages in the Hudson River for barges moving between Albany and New York. Ms. Galef had invited two representatives from the Maritime industry and the barge owners and operators to attend the meeting. Representatives from other municipalities were there as well from Riverkeeper, Historic Hudson River Towns (HHRT), and the Sierra Club.
While the industry representatives provided some new information about how existing and proposed cables in the river are affecting them, overall what I came away with was disturbing. The representatives were adamant that their request was totally about physical barge safety irrespective of the product being transported, which they admitted is mainly crude oil. They were tone deaf on why people would be concerned about what is on the barges.
More significantly to me, was a clearer understanding from them that barge traffic is increasing on the Hudson River, that most of what is transported is oil, and that there are really no external controls on the barge industry limiting the number of boats that may be on the river at any time. As more oil is exported out of New York Harbor, increasing barge traffic on the River will be needed to support it. There appears to be no controlling agency that limits the amount of such traffic, only the influence of supply and demand.
Safety is the concern of all parties on or adjacent to the river, not just barge operators. It is one thing if a barge loaded with sugar has an accident, but quite another if it is loaded with oil. It is not possible to separate the shipping method from the product being shipped when considering the proposed new anchorages.
The Coast Guard has extended the comment period for 90 days. Please submit your comments on line to http://regulations.gov and enter USCG-2016-0132 on the home page.
Ann Gallelli

Brian Pugh: Village Board Should Honor Its Commitments to Open Government

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Dear Neighbors:
This week, you may have received the Village’s new “quarterly newsletter,” which is taking the place of the Village’s monthly newsletter. The monthly newsletter was abruptly cancelled by Mayor Dr. Greg Schmidt of the Croton United Party without public discussion or input.
The termination of the monthly newsletter runs counter to the principles of public information and clearly contradicts the campaign promises of the Croton United Party.
“[We] will keep you informed, in a timely manner, regarding the actions your village board is taking in your name. We will institute a policy of proactive disclosure of public documents…We will also provide periodic public updates of the status of all significant issues affecting the village,” reads the Croton United Party web site.
How can that pledge be squared with the elimination of the Village’s monthly newsletter?
The cancellation of the monthly newsletter, which amounted to a few thousand dollars out of a Village budget of approximately $18 million, was ostensibly done in the name of economy.
Yet, Mayor Dr. Schmidt and his CUP colleagues did not feel similarly restrained by economy when they approved a payment of taxpayer dollars to their largest campaign donor for “reparations” for a claim that was denied by the Village’s insurer.
I hope that the majority on the Board will soon revisit the decision to cancel the monthly newsletter and act to ensure that the public gets the information that it deserves and which it was promised.
Sincerely,
Brian Pugh

Brian Pugh: The Village of Croton Should Pay All Village Workers At Least The NYS Minimum Wage

The NY Minimum wage is currently $9/hr, but a loophole allows local governments to pay less. Croton can and should pay the NYS Minimum.

By Brian Pugh
Dear Neighbors:

At last Monday’s Village Board work session, Dr. Mayor Greg Schmidt and his Deputy Mayor Bob Anderson of the Croton United Party, opposed bringing the starting pay for Village workers up to the state minimum wage of $9 per hour.

At the start of this year, the NYS minimum wage increased to $9 (and will now gradually rise to $15/hour by 2021). The Village of Croton, as a local government is not required to pay the state minimum wage due to a loophole in state labor law.

Indeed, according to Village records, some Village workers were being paid as little as $8.25/hour as of June 2016. For comparison, the inflation-adjusted value of the 1970 minimum wage would be over $12/hour in current dollars.

Establishing a minimum wage for Village workers of $9/hr would cost the Village roughly $1,000. The Mayor and his Deputy Mayor insisted that this tiny sum would overburden on the Village treasury.

Yet, the Croton United Party majority was able and willing to find $5,000 in taxpayer dollars to pay their largest campaign donor as “reparations” for a claim that was denied by the Village’s insurance plan.

While we celebrate the dignity of all work this long weekend, I hope that the Mayor and his Deputy Mayor spend some time this Labor Day reflecting on the decisions they have made and the positions they have taken.

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh

Croton Village Trustee

Further Reading:Video of the November 23 Work Session: http://view.earthchannel.com/PlayerController.aspx?&PGD=crotononhudson&eID=550
Agenda (and Backup Documents): http://crotononhudson.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=343&MinutesMeetingID=-1&doctype=Agenda

August 22, 2016 Work Session
Video of the August 22 Work Session: http://view.earthchannel.com/PlayerController.aspx?&PGD=crotononhudson&eID=589
Agenda for Work Session: http://crotononhudson.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=352&MinutesMeetingID=-1&doctype=Ag

Ann Gallelli: Reclaiming Our Waterfront

To the Editor,

Now that summer is almost over many of us here in Croton-on-Hudson, New York can probably reflect on some nice days or evenings spent along the Hudson River. Maybe a concert or movie at Senasqua Park, a picnic, or a walk, or just quiet time at Croton Landing Park, or perhaps a run along the entire riverfront from north to south. Maybe just looking at the sunsets from any number of locations.

For those who have been here after 2007, full access to the Hudson River is a given. For many, however, the change is nothing less than remarkable. Just 12 years ago, access to Senasqua and the Croton Yacht Club was across the railroad tracks at grade level from Senasqua Road. Alternatively, cars proceeded cautiously through the one-lane tunnel now used for bikes and pedestrians. These two alternatives were the only means to get to Senasqua Park and the Yacht Club.

Once you crossed the tracks, the Yacht Club was literally the end of the road. To the north were some 18 acres of overgrown land filled with the detritus of years of neglect, dumping, and the remains of businesses and industries from years past before Route 9 was built and stretching back to the 19th century.

While Half Moon Bay bridge provided access to the HMB development, there was no road to the north. Now who can imagine not having Elliott Way? It provides a beautiful scenic access for cars, bikes, and pedestrians as they make use of the 4+ miles of accessible Hudson River waterfront; nearly 100% of the Village’s Hudson River coast line.

Our Village has come a long way in being able to access and enjoy our river assets. These improvements came after long and difficult struggles within the community as to whether they were needed or should be done at all. I was fortunate to be involved in some of these efforts, and looking back, it’s hard to believe there was opposition.

Now that we have these important assets, it is so important that we keep looking ahead to see where improvements can be made and, just as importantly, to protect what we have.

Ann Gallelli