Thursday, March 12, 2009

March Post

Budget / Economics

Is it spring yet? Boy, I hope so – this winter we have had a bunch of these three to six-inch snow storms that have killed our highway winter budget. ‘ last tally we were something like $180,000 over our salt budget (road salt has gotten very expensive over the last couple of years) so we had to transfer funds from the blacktop budget.

As everybody knows, this economy has been terrible. Although we had dropped our revenue projections significantly, Mortgage Taxes for February were even lower than our estimates. After our trend analysis a couple of years ago we had adjusted our revenue and expenses and last year I think is the first year in many that the General Fund actually finished in the black. Due to the slumping economy, we worked hard to keep taxes flat this year (Town-wide assessments were down about 5.5%, we raised taxes by about 5.1%; so, many people actually saw a small reduction in their taxes); looking at overall tax bills, Town taxes are only 9 to 14% of your total tax bill, the rest being school, county, fire district, and library. Looking forward, next year is going to be a challenge.


Reval

You know, for all the pain the Town-wide revaluation caused (and, the way the contractor did it, it was painful!) it has actually allowed us to be much more accurate in identifying property values (that is why we recognized the 5.5% reduction, itself the Town-wide average, last year – remember these values are based on the assessments as of July 1 the year before; as we all know the values have fallen even further since then). Our Assessors have done a terrific job of completing the reval that that company had begun some years ago and they are always working to maintain accurate assessments.


Philips Road

And, just when you think it’s over…although the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department, denied the application by the developer to appeal the Town’s decision to keep Philips Road open, another suit has been filed. In this case there is an appeal to move the case to the highest court in the land; I believe it is the New York State Court of Appeals.

In addition, our own Dutchess County Attorney (the attorney for the Executive Branch, not to be confused with the Legislature) has asked permission to file a brief in support of the developer in the suit against the Town of East Fishkill. We were relieved when we won the case; but now, with Dutchess County moving to have the road closed, we can only hope that the lower court’s decision is upheld.


Hillside Lake

Recently our Town Engineer, Scott Bryant, met with a company that does dredging out at the lake. Yesterday we met with another firm that has done the design work and permitting on such projects. No matter how we slice it, it is a complicated project due to the location, size of the lake, amount of material to be removed, and the type of material. Although we still have to decide if we can find a place to take the material or if we use it in the lake, it appears the project will run between 1.5 to 2 million dollars.

Another problem that comes up over and over is how do we avoid “nitrogen loading” of the lake. The concern is that having so many residences with septics so close to the lake, as well as the stormwater discharges, there may be runoff into the waterbody of an excess of nitrogen which would create problems. If we invest this much money into lake remediation, we want to be sure that we solve the problem. I have asked our Grant Writer, Michael Hagerty, to look into grants and, especially, technical assistance that may be available from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation (a government agency) that deals with water and watershed protection. In the future people that live in the Hillside Lake District may be asked to fill out a confidential income survey from the Town; we would use this information to see if we qualify for grants and low-interest loans for the Hillside Lake Project.


Presidential Way Water

We have finally acquired all the property easements to put in the waterline. Since we are using some EPA funding, we have to submit a letter to the EPA stating that we have all the approvals and easements required to do the project (which we now have). Our attorney and engineer have sent the documentation and when we get approval (in a few weeks) we can award the contract (the low bidder has been calling every few weeks asking when they can begin). Baring any unforeseen circumstances, we should have the waterline in by the summer.


Brettview Water

Brettview water has been a real problem due to siltation and discoloration for some time. Over the last few months we have had meetings with the owners of the Rand Water system as well as the Department of Health, representatives from the Wappingers Central School Board, and School Superintendent Dick Powell to discuss where we go from here. We have come to an agreement with the owners to sell us the system and we will install the filters to resolve the problem. We are still working out some details; but, we hope to complete the purchase and install the filters by the middle of September. I know that it has been a long time; but, there may finally be some light at the end of the tunnel.


Shenandoah Water

We met with representatives from the Town of Fishkill which is supplying the water for the Shenandoah Waterline. They have both a short-term and a long-term solution to the problem of the elevated levels of Chloride (“blending” the water with that from another source) that will bring the levels down well within State Department of Health guidelines. They also agree that the people in the Shenandoah District should not pay for the modifications to the system to meet these guidelines. That being said, last Thursday, the Town of East Fishkill agreed to review, and possibly, accept the section of the waterline that is located on public roadways. That will allow the company to begin the house connections. The EPA has agreed to host a public information meeting this month at the Fire Training Center located on Rt. 52 to answer questions.


Flooding

We have been working to resolve significant flooding issues off of the Dogwood Road area to Route 82. Our Engineer has identified a property upon which the Town has a drainage easement that may help resolve these issues. We are doing some preliminary design work and are in discussions with the owners about the scope of work to be done – yet, it will be a time before we finally get the project moving.

In addition, we have taken the lead in an application to FEMA for grant money for hazard (flood) mitigation. We are representing our Town as well as Fishkill, Wappinger, and the Villages of Wappingers Falls and Fishkill in this project and are rated high on the of the list; still with all of the problems with the economy, it seems the approval process is taking longer than it should. It is our hope to do projects that will address the flooding of the Fishkill Creek.


Open Space

Unfortunately, it appears that the application for Fishkill Farms to be put in a Land Trust has stalled with just about everything else in Albany pending the sorting out of the State budget. Our Open Space Preservation Committee has met with our Town Planner, AKRF, to discuss putting together an Open Space Preservation Plan and the Town Board is also considering legislation to maintain open space.

Shared Services

With everyone’s budgets in such a funk, we have been looking for ways to provide services and share the costs. One area that has been hit hard is recreation space provided by the schools. Members of our Recreation Committee, the Wappingers Central School Board, Councilwoman Walker, and I have met to discuss how we can work together to provide more field and, hopefully, indoor recreation space. Our meeting was very promising and members of our boards are to meet again in a few weeks. I would like to say that School Board President, Doug Bitteker, and new Board member, John McMahon, are genuinely interested in the people they represent. Both gentlemen listened to our concerns, outlined their limitations with their budget, brought up some excellent points, and left us all with an understanding that we shall do our best to work together.

Well, that’s about it - if anyone has any questions or concerns about any of these, or actually any, issues at all you can e-mail me at hickmanj@eastfishkillny.org, or stop in at the Town Hall.

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