Brian Pugh: The Facts on Fiscal Policy

brian-pugh-group-croppedTo The Editor:

In the last few issues of the Gazette, the Croton United party candidates and their partisans have portrayed themselves a champions of fiscal responsibility. However, their actual record falls short of their rhetoric.

The most recent budget, which came in under the tax cap, was only able to pass with the votes of the two Democratic Trustees on the Board, Ann Gallelli and myself.

Before that, our Village was only able to remain under the cap last year thanks to $19,000 “carryover factor” that the Village earned from the 2015 budget, passed by the former Democratic Majority Board. Simply put, the 2016 tax freeze checks were only possible thanks to the fiscal responsibility of the Democrats.

All of this spin is because Croton United has painted itself in the corner. They campaigned aggressively against “debt”. But once they gained power, they quickly approved some $8 million in new borrowing. Two years into Croton United’s reign they have been unable or unwilling to take a break from politicking and get down to governance.

We should be taking concrete steps to control the most significant increases in expenses for the Village identified in by the Village manager in her budget memos. I have outlined such steps, including the use of buying groups to tame insurance costs, in my recent letters to the Gazette and will continue to work diligently to implement them.

Brian Pugh

Advertisements

Ann Gallelli: Decoding Village Agendas

Decoding Village Agendas –   October 23, 2017

Work Session of the Village Board

7: 30 p.m.

 (Open to Public and Televised)

 

 

 

  • Discussion with Alan Kassay, Parner with the accounting firm O’Connor Davies, to review the Village’s 2016-2017 Audit Report.   The Auditors will present their final report and financial statement on the fiscal year ending May 31, 2017.  

 

 

 

  • Discussion of request by the owner of Green Growler for 3 reduced rate parking permits in Section A of the Croton Harmon Lot.  The owner is seeking a reduced rate on a monthly basis for employees.  The spots would be designated and marked as reserved for those employees.

 

 

 

  • Village Board of Trustees considers authorizing the proposed tax certiorari settlement with the owner of 193-197 Grand Street (68.17-4-58) and authorizes the Village Attorney to consent to the Final Order and Judgment reflecting this  settlement with the Supreme Court of the State of New York.  The Village would refund a total of $1836.01 to the owners of Ella 1 LLC.  The Village Assessor and Village Attorney have agreed that the assessment values used by the Town of Cortlandt are fair.

 

 

 

  • Vouchers 2017-2018   This is budgetary housekeeping.

 

 

Brian Pugh: Grassroots Action Against Climate Change

Dear Neighbors:brian-pugh-group-cropped

The Trump administration’s announced earlier this month that it would repeal President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector by 32% by 2030, shifts the responsibility for fighting climate change to the state and local governments. With the clock ticking on climate change, we cannot afford to wait for Washington to act.

The United States Climate Alliance is a bipartisan coalition of states, lead by California, New York and Washington, committed to upholding the objectives of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change within their borders and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan. Similarly, more than 200 local governments are members of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, an organization of U.S. mayors committed to upholding the Paris Agreement.

Electricity production generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, enrolling our Village in Sustainable Westchester’s Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program is an easy and economical way to fight climate change. One analysis found that our Village’s participation in the 100% renewable CCA would produce carbon reductions of 4,500–6,000 metric tons (for reference, the EPA finds that a typical passenger vehicle emits about 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year).

Amazingly, these environmental benefits get be realized at essentially no cost. Indeed, in 2016, the typical Con Edison customer enrolled in the 100% renewable CCA option actually saved money versus those that received the standard Con Edison supply.

Regrettably, when our Village had the chance to join our neighbors in Ossining, New Castle and Tarrytown and the other 17 communities participating in Sustainable Westchester’s CCA program in January, 2016, it was rejected by the current Mayor and the Croton United majority–over the objections of Trustee Ann Gallelli and myself. However, in January 2018, our Village will have another opportunity to join the program.

Sincerely,

Brian Pugh

Ann Gallelli: Decoding Village Agendas No. 382

ann2016Dear neighbor, Here is the 382nd installment of Decoding Village Agendas to keep Croton residents informed of the actions of the Village Board at their meetings.  I continue to add recipients to this email update on agendas so you may be receiving it for the first time. I enjoy getting your feedback and hope to continue to hear from you.  If you do not wish to receive these periodic email updates from me, please reply to this email and your name will be removed from the email list.

Ann Gallelli

 

 

 

Decoding Village Agendas –  October 16, 2017

Regular Meeting of the Village Board

8:00 pm

 (Open to Public  – Televised)

 

PRESENTATIONS/OTHER.  The Village Board to review the EAF Part II and the Village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program policies to determine consistency with regard the special use permit request for an expansion of an existing garden center and new showroom at 1360 Albany Post Road.  As Lead Agency under SEQRA, the Board must make its own findings regarding the proposal’s consistency with our LWRP.

 

CORRESPONDENCE:

 

  • Dan Ahouse, Area Director of Government Affairs, Altice; re: Notification that as of October 24, 2017 channels CTC on 1186 and TeleKlub on 1188 will be removed. In addition, beginning on September 29, 2017 Optimum will be launching New York 1 on channel 98. 

 

This letter, and the one below, are required notifications from our cable franchise regarding changes in their television line up and product charges..

    1. Dan Ahouse, Area Director of Government Affairs, Altice; re: Notification that as of November 1, 2017 there will be a price adjustment to select video products for certain residential customers.

 

  • Karen Timko, Director of Environmental Compliance and Services, Metro North; re: Metro North’s project to replace all 168 HPS high mast lighting fixtures in the train yard with LED fixtures.   MN will be converting its high pressure sodium lights in their yards at the Croton railroad station to LED fixtures.  There are 168 fixtures.  The project is in design and will reduce energy consumption and light pollution in the surrounding area.

 

PROPOSED RESOLUTIONS:

 

  •  The Village Board of Trustees schedules a Public Hearing on November 20, 2017     at 8PM in the meeting room of the Stanley H Kellerhouse Municipal Building to consider the special use permit request for an expansion of an existing garden center and new showroom at 1360 Albany Post Road.   The public hearing is on a new proposed building at the location of the current Croton Country Gardens.
  • The Village Board considers issuing the EAF Part 3 Determination of Significance attached hereto, and adopting a Negative Declaration in connection with the proposed action to to construct a new 2nd and 3rd story and the addition of dwelling units at 425 South Riverside Avenue. In addition, the Village Board schedules a Public Hearing on November 6, 2017 at 8PM in the meeting room of the Stanley H Kellerhouse Municipal Building to consider the special use permit request.   This public hearing will allow comments on the proposal at the current location of Straddles and ET Equipment.  It calls for a total of 10 residential units in addition to the ground floor commercial.
  • Reallocation of the funding sources for the Farrington Road and Hunter Place pavement, curb and sidewalk improvement project.  The resolution calls for changing the amounts  in the accounts in which the costs of the project were previously allocated
  • Authorizing the Village Manager to approve Change Order 1 in the amount of $28,935 for the Elliott Way Improvement Project for a design change to the retaining wall to align with the elevation for the Riverwalk, and the extension of the lighting from the Yacht Club entrance and the beginning of the boardwalk.  These are changes and improvements that have been added since the original contract was authorized.
  • Authorizing the Village Treasurer to amend the 2017-2018 General Fund Budget in the amount of $1,053 for monies received through insurance recoveries for damage to a Village owned fence caused by a delivery truck on Half Moon Bay Drive.  This is budget housekeeping.
  • The Village Board considers rejecting the welding services bids received on July 18, 2017 due to the need to change the scope of work from a 40 hour basis to a 140 hour basis.   The bid bonds were returned and new bidding documents will be available soon.
  • The Village Board of Trustees authorizes the Village Manager to transfer ownership of Rescue 18, (vin# ending 4049) to the Town of Cortlandt at no cost. Rescue 18, a 1993 International 4900 operated by the Croton Fire Department, has 37,934 miles and 4,530 engine hours.  The Village will give the vehicle to the Town of Cortlandt.  The Town has expressed an interest in using this vehicle for their water department.
  • The Village Board considers authorizing the Village Manager to sign the Intermunicipal Agreement with the Town of Cortlandt to allow their use of 3 Municipal Place for organic yard waste disposal. The agreement stipulates that the Village will be billed by Westchester County, as per current protocol, a certain organic yard waste amount and will then allocate said billing to the Town of Cortlandt based on the tonnage amount of organic yard waste materials delivered, plus fifteen percent.   This agreement would allow the Village’s Municipal Place area  to be used by the Town for the same purposea while they are relocating their own facility from Roa Hook to a new facility in Verplanck.
  • The Village Board of Trustees schedules a Public Hearing on November 6, 2017 at 8PM in the meeting room of the Stanley H Kellerhouse Municipal Building to consider Local Law Introductory No. 5 of 2017, which would allow dogs on leashes at Black Rock Park in the area that currently prohibits dogs.   If passed, this amendment to the local law regarding dogs would allow licensed dogs, on a leash, to be in Black Rock Park.  The current  enclosed dog area at Black Rock would still be reserved for those with a permit to unleash their dogs in that area.

 

 

Brian Pugh: Lifting the Burden on Property Taxpayers

To the Editor:

In last week’s Gazette, I wrote about controlling property taxes

brian-pugh-group-cropped

by managing fast growing budget line-items (e.g. insurance). In addition to controlling spending, we also need to diversify revenue sources so our Village government is less dependent on property taxes paid by homeowners.

Sources of new revenue includes:

  1. Stimulating new economic growth through mixed-use developments like those made possible by Harmon rezoning. The 2013 Harmon re-zoning law, which permits mixed residential and commercial use in the Harmon Zoning District adds options and incentives for commercial property owners in the Harmon business district. At the time and even today, the law was opposed by Croton United’s leaders. Yet it has spurred investment in new mixed use buildings in Harmon and these new investments can add value to the tax rolls and help lighten the load on other taxpayers.
  2. Getting Village-owned property back on the tax rolls by working with private investors that could develop the property. The Village owns parcels such as the “Katz property” and Municipal Place. These parcels could be sold to private developers, giving the Village an initial cash infusion and new property tax revenue into the future (helping to lighten the burden on existing taxpayers). Moreover, this re-development can and should be integrated into a larger economic strategy to help integrate the Village’s commercial corridors and catalyze complimentary uses that will create new business opportunities and amenities in our community.
  3. Capitalizing on possible renewable energy projects on Village property. Sunrise Solar in conjunction with Sunpower proposed creating a 4 megawatt solar power canopy system above the train station parking lot. Under this proposal SunPower would pay Croton a lease for the use of the parking lot (typically for a 20-year term) with annual payments of $100-150,000 ($2-3M over term of contract).

While each individual change may be modest, taken together they can have a substantial impact.

Typically, the property tax increase in a given fiscal year is in the neighborhood of $100,000. Therefore, even small increases in non-tax revenue can help us freeze property taxes and keep our community affordable for middle class families.

Brian Pugh

Brian Pugh: Win-Win Budgeting

To The Editor:brian-pugh-group-cropped
It’s popular to talk about controlling taxes, but far less common for politicians to specify how they plan to manage the expenditures that make taxes necessary.
Helpfully, our Village Manager identifies “significant increases in expenditures” in the annual budget memo. In the memo from March, 2017, the Village Manager names the largest increase as “[e]mployee benefits, including pension costs, FICA, and health insurance premiums are estimated to increase by $340,299.”
By state law, public employees can’t strike. On the other hand, the law also says they continue to receive all benefits while a new contract is negotiated. Pension contributions are also determined by the state.
However, it is still possible to find savings through collaborative methods under NYS law.
A properly designed retirement incentive can be a money-saver.  In 2010, NYS adopted a voluntary early retirement incentive credited by the independent Citizens Budget Commission with saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Savings can also be realized by finding insurance policies that are a better value for taxpayers and workers through such instruments workers compensation safety groups and municipal cooperative health plans, which join employers together to secure more favorable terms from insurers.
If we are serious about controlling taxes, we must think about how we can control spending.  And there’s no need to re-invent the wheel when it comes to strategic budgeting. The tools are there–we just need to pick them up.
Sincerely,
Brian Pugh