“Our village debt balance has increased too rapidly”

This letter was published in today’s issue of the Gazette.

To the Editor:
As a resident and taxpayer of the village of Croton-on-Hudson, I’ve watched with interest the dialogue among the candidates for mayor and trustee, particularly in the area of fiscal health for our village.

Being part of the financial industry for the last 11 years and a CPA since well before that, I’ve seen what can result from a high debt load. In moderation, debt is OK. Most homeowners wouldn’t wait to save enough to buy their home with cash. But there’s a limit to how much debt is sensible, and so we try to keep our credit card and other debt balances low. For our village, no one is saying it is not prudent to use debt for vital projects with long-term value. No one is saying it is not prudent to take advantage of low interest rates when they exist. The issue is one of discipline, and knowing when enough is enough. Over the last few years our village debt balance has increased too rapidly, and not always for projects that were vital enough to warrant the use of debt.

Some in our village have claimed that it is irresponsible to compare family finances to municipal finances. That is true to an extent, but for a scary reason. At home you keep your debt manageable because you know what you can afford to repay. A municipality doesn’t have that problem. If it has higher debt payments, it can just raise taxes to pay them. And no, the tax cap does not prevent this. If the debt recently approved by the village board is actually issued, the estimated $900,000/yr of additional debt payments would raise our village property taxes over 8%, an increase that would stay with us for years to come! That’s on top of increases for salaries and other village expenditures. Are you ready for that?

I’m confident that Greg Schmidt, Bob Anderson, and Ken Walsh of the Croton United team will approach debt responsibly, and keep our village fiscally strong while still preserving critical infrastructure. While the debt issue is important, it is not Croton United’s only focus. I encourage you to go to their website and see their positions on many of the important issues facing our village.

I hope you’ll join me on November 3 in voting for the Croton United team. They each bring different strengths and experiences to the table and as a team, I think they will be an effective group in bringing fiscal restraint back to our village.

Todd Freebern