Municipalities and school districts say they’re ready for 2019

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Happy New Year! Best wishes for a year filled with good health, happiness and prosperity to all Photo News readers. We hope your challenges will be few and your successes are many.

As we begin 2019, The Photo News asked the area’s towns, villages and school districts to respond to two questions which we feel are of interest to residents and taxpayers.

We asked what do you expect to accomplish in 2019 that will make a difference in how services are delivered, aid taxpayers or in some other way benefit the public and what obstacles will you face?

Here’s what they told us:

Town of Monroe Supervisor Tony CardoneOur continued focus in 2019 will be fiscal responsibility while strengthening the sense of community in the Town of Monroe. With the start of the New Year comes the official establishment of the Town of Palm Tree. While this means a decrease in taxable value for the Town of Monroe, we have worked hard to ensure our taxpayers are not adversely affected by these changes. Our 2019 adopted budget reflects several cost-savings initiatives including a 4.1 percent decrease in the total budget, as well as several departmental reductions. We are pleased to note that the town is situated 12 percent below the tax cap limit for 2019. In addition, the enhancement of several inter-municipal agreements and the streamlining of processes will ensure we remain true to our goal of maintaining and not sacrificing the current services for our taxpayers. We anticipate minor obstacles from the loss of tax revenue due to the formation of Palm Tree and some loss of state aid. However, obstacles are opportunities in disguise and will help us think outside the box to benefit our residents.

To better serve our residents, we will be purchasing the new town hall building during the month of January. This will allow for the consolidation of our town offices, including the courts. Throughout 2019, we also look forward to hosting several community-oriented events such as our food truck festivals. The feedback from the festivals held in 2018 was very favorable and events such as this provide a wonderful opportunity to bring our residents and neighboring communities together. Throughout 2019 we will also continue to work with the Village of Monroe to help boost economic growth in the village and bring new businesses to the area.

In the spirit of giving back to the community, we will continue to acknowledge those in and around our community who have a positive impact on our town with our “Making an Impact” recognition award at town board meetings.

Town of Woodbury Supervisor Frank PalermoLike all towns, Woodbury’s properties are one of our greatest financial assets. In 2018, the Town Board assessed the condition of some of our buildings and made plans to physically move most of the town department offices to another location on Route 32. In 2019, I would like to see the town review the balance of our buildings and properties for maintenance and building code purposes. As building codes are updated, I would like to see the town create a multi-year plan to bring them up to today’s standards and have a structured maintenance plan for the future.

We have started this process by moving the supervisor, town clerk and tax assessor’s offices to a professional building down the road from our current building. It is fully ADA accessible. Our first order of business for the current town hall will be repairing and renovating it to a standalone court house. The court will finally become ADA compliant. The roof will be replaced, and the outside will become fixed up and presentable again. New security measures are currently being installed. It will once again become a building that our residents will be proud of.

We also need to repair both the Woodbury Police Department and court house parking lots. Right now, every time we get a hard rainfall, the police department floods. The court parking lot has holes that must be repaired. As supervisor, it is my goal to work with the board and buildings and grounds department to create a plan of future ongoing maintenance and protection of our greatest assets. I would like to accomplish this without increasing taxes by finding alternate funding opportunities.

Our biggest obstacle in the southern district of Orange County is unity. In 2018, we have three new supervisors including Monroe, Blooming Grove and Woodbury, along with two new mayors: Monroe and South Blooming Grove. It’s time to put aside the old notions of the past and start to work together. We need to be the leaders that will bring this region together. I think that meeting four times a year with all the leaders in this area, can help resolve issues that for years, the courts have settled for us. Together, we can be stronger.

Village of Monroe Mayor Neil Dwyer As our village and my administration move into 2019, we have and will continue to work with our neighboring towns and villages to find ways to work together in procuring services that would otherwise be prohibitive to accomplish solely on the tax revenue.

As we identify shared needs we will enter into IMAs (Inter-Municipal Agreements) which can provide measurable savings for a municipality.

Additionally, our board is committed to writing grants from our county and state representatives as well as federal opportunities in identifying financial resources. We have been gathering information with staff and consultants to identify and scale all of our infrastructure in regards to water, storm water management through-out our village, as well as village connectivity to our downtown and our roads.

Managing information has given us great opportunity to meet with consultants to help us find ways to shrink the paper use and space in our village while electronically placing all of our information onto a cloud-based solution. This is a current project that will serve dividends for our staff in terms of time management and accessibility to the public. We will accomplish this through multi-year grant opportunities, budget planning, procurement of equipment capable of accomplishing some of this work and utilizing internships which the village has done in 2018.

We will continue to work cooperatively with our commercial base in our village, working to network and sustain our downtown and Route 17M corridor through idea sharing, and identifying potential businesses and tenants.

Planning is everything, it will identify our path and how best to achieve our goals both structurally and financially. Through inter-municipal cooperation, our dedicated employees and consultants, we must plan and our budget must reflect that planning.

Our major challenge is finding funding beyond our village budgets income for short-and long term goals, as the pool of funds available is spreading to communities throughout the state and into the county.

We must be diligent in sharing our needs with our county and state elected officials.

This is the driver of many goals for everyone, and we have the absolute responsibility to tow the line, constantly monitoring the expenses of our current budget and begin the work of our next fiscal year with these same goals in our plan. Our board is committed to addressing these challenges and will continue to open every door necessary, looking for partners that have the same ideals and goals.

Village of Woodbury Mayor Michael QueenanComplete the street light transition to LED. This will result in a significant reduction in our energy cost. Develop additional wells to ensure and protect our water supply. Continue infrastructure improvement projects.

The obstacles that all municipalities face are rising costs. It’s an ongoing battle, but so far we’ve been able to maintain high levels of service while staying within the tax cap and sometimes even reducing taxes. My biggest concern is the future of our volunteer services. We are blessed to have dedicated volunteers today that do a great job. However, providing coverage for fire and ambulance has been a challenge because recruitment is down. We need to look at all options to find a way to increase volunteerism for the benefit of all in our community.

Village of Harriman Mayor Stephen WelleI have two main goals for 2019. The first is access to and parking for the Heritage Trail in Harriman. Unfortunately this was omitted from the county’s original plan for the trail. I have been working with the county and village board to arrange for the parking and entrance and the goal is to have these in place by late spring weather permitting. Once this project is complete our residents will have the ability to enjoy the trail without traveling to Monroe to access it.

My second goal is to commence the government center replacement. There were delays beyond our control which caused the bidding process to be delayed. This delay resulted in much higher costs due to the contractors being very busy. With some redesign and alternate measures being taken for procurement of building materials, I expect this project to move forward without a significant impact on the village budget. Once completed, this building will provide a much safer and environmentally friendly facility for the police department, court, and village offices.

Tuxedo Superintendent of School Nancy TeedThe Tuxedo Union Free School District is looking forward to 2019 and the development of a long-term strategic plan the K-12 district. Strategic planning committee meetings will be kicking off on Jan. 10.

District officials are readily preparing for the 2019-2020 school year and are working to further enhance programs at both schools. We are considering additional electives in the humanities and STEM related fields, and are planning for a wide range of educational field trips, including virtual field trips. We are exploring the implementation of a Pre-K program, to aid in kindergarten readiness and benefit the families of the Tuxedo community. We are also developing adult education programs for community members (for example, yoga, cooking classes, financial planning) to facilitate on-going learning at all levels. While striving to create additional opportunities for our students, we continue to be mindful of the need for operational efficiencies to minimize the financial impact to our taxpayers.

Tuxedo is a small district offering a unique environment to those who are seeking personalized attention, small class sizes and opportunities for students to become involved in as many extracurricular activities as they would like to participate in. We continue to offer scholarships and a non-resident tuition rate that is well below other districts. We welcome the opportunity for non-residents to come in and explore all that Tuxedo has to offer.

Tuxedo’s biggest strength, our size, also continues to be our biggest challenge. Tuxedo does not have a large population and attracting non-resident students whose parents are already paying high property taxes has been challenging, but we are hopeful that our program enhancements and planned marketing campaign will help get the word out with respect to all that we can offer here in Tuxedo.

Town of Tuxedo Supervisor Michael RostRost did not respond to the specified questions and instead provided this statement:

In 2014, the Town of Tuxedo was faced with a tremendous shortfall in our finances. We were short over $1 million and faced with the very real possibility of being taken over by a state control board. We went through a major restructuring in town with our workforce. Full-time positions were eliminated at town hall, as we are open four days per week instead of five. We are working on our website to provide more on-line services so tax payers will not have to take off from work to do business at the Hall. We consolidated services with Orange County 911 to eliminate our dispatch function. We negotiated more reasonable contracts with our union labor forces to better control future costs. We had a five year plan to restore our fund balance and we will be able to achieve that in four years. In 2019, we will have fully funded contingency funds and fund balance. We also instituted controls to ensure that financial mismanagement could never happen again to protect the tax payers.

So, for 2019, we plan on continuing to work with our department heads to manage spending and control costs. Our challenges are probably not dissimilar to other towns across the country - the rising costs of health care and funding capital projects for infrastructure repairs and equipment costs. Fortunately, we were able to negotiate a different health care plan for our highway department that will save the town over $40,000 and we have been budgeting dollars for repairs and new equipment. Economic development is my major focus in 2019. Tuxedo needs to attract new business to town. Anyone driving into our town from the south will notice the new construction at the former location of the ice cream and pizza shop. The town is excited to welcome this new restaurant to our town and we look forward to attracting other businesses and services that will make our community even more attractive to residents. I can tell you that the residents of Tuxedo are eager to support businesses and services that decide to set up shop in our town.

Editor’s Notes:

The Monroe-Woodbury School District chose to not participate in this story. In an email, its Communications Office told The Photo News that school district officials were not available to comment.

The Photo News plans a story on the new Town of Palm tree in the coming weeks.

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