December 4, 2018
The bulk of the meeting was devoted to a public hearing on the 2019 Preliminary Budget. The hearing was closed and the board indicated that it would likely vote on the budget at its next meeting, December 11th.
The following are some of the highlights.
1. Open Space Fund
Paul Moskowitz asked if there was any provision in the budget for the revenue from the $30/parcel open space fee. In response, it was noted that the $400,000 in the “capital contingency project” line item ($400,000 being the amount of money that the $30 fee would collect if it was levied) could be used for open space acquisition if and when an opportunity arose. Councilwoman Roker said she has some concerns about turning around the referendum that established the fee, but Councilman Lachterman said he didn’t see any need to collect the fee until the town needed it. Supervisor brought up the issue that some of the town’s open space needed to be maintained but that the state legislation that allowed to town to collect the fee stipulated that the money could only be used for acquisition. Susan Siegel, the person writing this summary, suggested that the board do a home rule message requesting the state legislature to change the law so that some of the money could be used for maintenance.
2. Mohegan Avenue retaining wall
Shelley Reid asked about the status of rebuilding the wall. Mr. Paganelli said that the town already has a bid to do the work and all he needs is for the Town Board to give him the money - $820,000. He said the $400,000 in open space money could be used for the wall. He said the project would take 4-6 months and he hoped to be able to start it in May. He added that if before that there is any question about the safety of the road, he would close the road before any possible collapse.
3. Capital budget/infrastructure projects
Susan Siegel asked the board to adopt a one year capital budget that included the projects the town was planning to proceed with in 2019 and how they would be funded. Referring to the 5 year Capital Plan in the budget book, Councilman Roker said that the board needed to meet with department heads again to go over what should be the board’s highest priorities. It appeared that those discussions might take place at a closed work session prior to opening the meeting to the public and voting to adopt the budget.
Supervisor Gilbert noted that the town’s infrastructure had been neglected for many years. He said the town hoped to be able to repair some roofs in town buildings by December and that the budget included a 10% increase for road improvements.
4. Tax Levy
Susan Siegel asked the board to increase the tax levy in the budget by $400,000 so the levy was at the maximum allowed under the state tax cap. She explained the importance of maximum allowed levy. She asked the board to meet with the comptroller to review possible options for how the change could be made; one option she suggested was raising the town tax rate by $31. In response, some members of the board talked about the need to balance expenses and infrastructure needs with a reasonable tax increase.
5. Fund Balance
Ed Ciffone and Don Roberts of the United Taxpayers of Yorktown (UTY) asked the board to increase the allocation of fund balance in order to bring the tax rate increase down to zero. They said that the fund balance in several separate budget funds was excessive. Susan Siegel said that the board should use any excess funds in the fund balance for one time needed infrastructure projects and not to cover annual recurring operating expenses. She explained how previous boards had used $3 million of the water district’s fund balance to cover operating costs which resulted in the district having to borrow money to pay for a new storage tank.
Supervisor Gilbert explained that what was available in the fund balance was a “moving target” and that the current amount in the general fund fund balance was already less than the last audted amount as of 12/31/2017 that was in the budget book.
(For updates, see Town Board 6-5-2018 and 7-17-2018.) the Susan Siegel asked about the status of the long delayed installation of a new fluoridation system for the Catskill water supply and the $901,000 state grant the town received for the project. While the 5 year Capital Plan listed $700,000 for the project and there was $700,000 in the water district’s “special projects” budget line, she asked the board for a commitment to get the project done in 2019. In response, Supervisor Gilbert said that there might be other more important water district projects, like cement lining water pipes in certain neighborhoods, and that adding fluoride wouldn’t make a difference if the pipes couldn’t deliver safe water. He also pointed to limited funds available in the district’s fund balance. When Ms. Siegel suggested the board consider raising the water usage fee, Supervisor Gilbert said the board was looking into that and Water Superintendent Ken Rundle said that Yorktown’s water usage fee was in the middle range of fees for 15 other towns.
7. Excessive expense projections
Citing several budget lines, Mr. Roberts pointed to what he believed were excessive expensive projections that, if adjusted, could lower the tax rate increas. He also called attention to the $82,700 budget line for support for three athletic clubs, noting that for several years, he had asked previous boards to review whether the clubs needed the support and had received commitments that they would look into the issue but that nothing had been done.
8. Garbage pick up for park districts
(See Town Board, 10-30-2018.) Ken Belfer asked if the park districts could opt into the refuse district. Supervisor Gilbert explained that if one district wanted in, all the other would have to ooocome in and that some districts have found it less expensive to contract on their own for their limited summer garbage colelctions.
9. Building Department fees
In response to a question why revenue from building permit fees is projected to increase by $245,000, Building Inspector Landi explained that he is reviewing the current fee schedule and that based on new state laws, he anticipates that there will be some new fees. He said the department would start collecting that have already been authorized but which weren’t being collected.
10. Unpaid taxes
In response to a question why the projected revenue from interest and penalties on unpaid taxes was lower than actual collections in previous years, Receiver of Taxes Korsack and Town Attorney Abbate discussed their ongoing efforts to collect back taxes. Mr. Abbate pointed out that the town has to spend money on title searches and filing fees associated with starting an in rem procedure.
Ms. Korsack noted that one of the problems with the town’s current installment repayment program was that it required 25% down and that property owners had to keep current on their taxes. Supervisor Gilbert added that the agreements were limited to two years and some people needed a longer period of time to replay what they owe.
11. Highway garage relocation project
Councilman Lachterman noted that the former Chase Bank building on Commerce Street had sold for $3.2 million, Supervisor Gilbert noted that didn’t mean that the highway garage site, in an industrial zone, would sell for the same amount of money. He added that while in a perfect world the town should consider relocating the garage, Highway Superintendent Paganelli had advised him that the town had higher priorities than a new highway garage. He also said that the town should look into whether any of the state money that has been set aside for the project could be repurposed.
12. Police services during pipeline project
In response to a question, Police Chef Noble said that while Enbridge was paying for police officers who do traffic control during the construction, the town as absorbing the costs, which he said were minimal, for the use of the town’s police cars.
13. 6pm starting time
Two residents asked the board to reconsider the 6pm time for the hearing which they said was inconvenient for residents. They said that the hearings used to start at 7pm or 7:30 pm.
Darby Street TCO (temporary certificate of occupancy)
The house is already built but some of the outside site work has not been completed. The resolution would allow granting a TCO with a $20,000 bond to cover the cost of the improvements not yet completed. Michael Beakes objected to granting the TCO and showed photos of the site with ground water issues he said would impact on the septic field and reserve area for a future septic field installation. He said malfunctioning fields would impact the abutting wetland and abutting property owners. Both the building inspector and town engineer said that the septic field issue was in the hands of the county health department and that the department had signed off on the installation. Mr. Beakes asked the town to visit the site again and notify the health department of problems but the town engineer said that was not called for. The board voted to issue the TCO.
Nixle emergency notification
The board voted for a five year contract with Nixle at a cost of $5,000/year after the town was notified that the once free system would charge a fee as of January 1, 2019. In response to a question from Susan Siegel, Police Chief Noble said that the site,maintained by the police department, had recently received 10,000-12,000 hits but he couldn’t say how many households that represented. Citing the limitations of any notification system based on people having to opt in to the service, Ms. Siegel asked the board to investigate systems that would automatically include all households with landlines or cell phones and allow those who didn’t want the service to opt out.
Councilman Lachterman said that more needed to be done to educate town residents about opting in to the system.
The board went into closed session to discuss personnel.