Gouveia Park

Gouveia Park is a done deal. In January, the village board voted unanimously for its acceptance with little discussion and no public debate. It now belongs to Croton for better or for worse. The issues today are how we deal with its rapidly escalating costs, as well as how this process was conducted by the board, and whether this is the best process for the village in considering other projects in the future.  

Increasingly . . . the county is saying thanks but no thanks to generous benefactors who want to leave their property to the county as parkland. In this era of budget belt-tightening and property owners overwhelmed by the highest taxes in the country, it’s simply too expensive to maintain the donated properties, even when the gift includes a multimillion-dollar endowment.
— The Journal News, July 21, 2014

Croton United has always acknowledged that it’s an attractive property. Our concern, and that of many other Croton residents, was whether we can afford its development and maintenance or whether it will become a drain on village finances, like similar projects have in other communities. And it now appears that those concerns are fully justified.

While the village has had title to the park for only a few months, it is already clear that the cost estimate presented by the board in January grossly underestimated the actual costs incurred to date. For example:

Project Village Board Estimate, Jan. 2015 Actual Cost as of June 2015*
Lawn Maintenance $3,000/year $9,813 (5 mo.)
Tree Trimming $2,000/year $14,863
Security System $2,000 $8,976
Driveway/Parking Lot $12,000 >$35,000**

* As reported by the village board, June 2015
** Village Engineer’s estimate

In addition, the board has estimated that another $146,000 in capital improvements is necessary and that the annual maintenance costs will be $14,690. If the actual costs for these future items are as far above the estimates as those incurred to date, we are in for some very serious financial shocks.

Further, the $200,000 the board will borrow to implement these improvements was proposed in January to be raised through a 5-year bond anticipation note. But, in this year’s bond resolution, it is included in a 15-year bond that will substantially increase the amount of interest the village will have to pay over the life of the bonds.

Gouveia Property: Potential Phase 1 public uses (draft, Nov. 2013)

Gouveia Property: Potential Phase 1 public uses (draft, Nov. 2013)

On the other side of the ledger, the board projected that, in this first year, the park would generate $20,000 in revenue, most of it from a $1,000/month rental of a portion of the property. This was obviously meant to be from Something Good in the World, which, for reasons unknown, no longer seems interested in locating here.  There are no other announced plans for any revenue producing events.

And the board’s January financial analysis did not even recognize the roughly $15,000 in tax revenue the village has lost with the acquisition of the property, nor the roughly $25,000 in taxes lost by the Croton-Harmon School District. All of this revenue will now have to be made up from other sources, principally from increased property taxes on other residents.

With all of the other financial problems facing the village, we cannot continue down this path. Therefore, if elected, Greg Schmidt, Bob Anderson, and Ken Walsh will immediately perform a new, accurate cost estimate and do whatever is possible to limit the expenditures on Gouveia to a level the village can reasonably afford.

Ken is especially well informed on the development of Gouveia Park, as he served on the ad-hoc committee appointed by the board to recommend future uses for the property. The committee’s recommendation of a gradual approach to development, dictated by the volume of actual visits to the park, which is the approach we endorse, was rejected by the board when it adopted its current policy of making massive expenditures now, before there is any indication of how popular the park might be.

We pledge to the taxpayers and voters of Croton that we will never approve any future project without an honest evaluation of its costs, without a full and open discussion of its pros and cons, and without timely input from you, the residents of our village.