This letter was published in the Gazette on March 8, 2018.
To the Editor,
Well, it didn’t take Mayor Pugh and his colleagues very long to abandon any semblance of fiscal responsibility. In 2016, Mayor Schmidt appointed the Financial Sustainability Committee (FSC) and, in cooperation with that committee, instituted financial controls, including controls on future debt, to end the chaotic state of Croton’s finances and ensure the long-term fiscal health of the village.
Yet only days after the FSC reviewed its recommendations with the Board, and in response to questions regarding the ill-advised Croton Point Avenue (CPA) project, the Board stated that it would not abide by the debt control policy recommended by the FSC.
The CPA estimate has ballooned to $3.2 million from $2.7 million and we have already expended over $400K before the first shovelful has been turned. Assuming that estimate remains valid, and taking account of the federal grant, additional money from the state, and the use of the entire fund provided to Croton by the county for lifetime CPA maintenance, we will still have to borrow an additional $1.5 million to fund the project.
But the use of the $400K in the county fund is still problematic, as the terms of the CPA transfer may preclude the use of all of it for such a project. If any of that money proves to be restricted, we will have to borrow even more, further violating the FSC’s debt recommendations. And all future maintenance on CPA will come right out of the taxpayers’ pockets.
Equally disturbing was the indication by some of the newer trustees during the FSC presentation that they had not read the FSC reports on the village’s debt and their recommendations on how to avoid significant financial problems in the years ahead. While this may be forgiven by their inexperience, one would have certainly expected that the Mayor would have instructed them to study the FSC reports before taking action on major village expenditures. Or was it that Mr. Pugh feared that, if they were aware of the precarious nature of future village finances, they would not support his attempt to ram this wasteful project through the Board?
To date, we have spent about $172K of the federal grant money. As painful as it might be, serious consideration should be given to repaying those funds and terminating the CPA project before any more money is squandered on it.
CPA was a bad idea when it was first proposed and remains a bad idea today. The sooner we get out from under it, the faster the village’s debt will be reduced to a level consistent with financial health and in concert with the recommendations of the FSC.
One final note. The FSC provides an invaluable service to the village. These financial professionals devote uncounted hours to ensure that the village remains fiscally healthy. We could not afford their services if we had to purchase them.
But if the Board continues to ignore the FSC’s recommendations, they may just conclude that they’re wasting their time and resign. And recruiting new members would become especially difficult. Or maybe that’s exactly what the Board has in mind.
Joel E. Gingold