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Fiscal Responsibility? Part 2

April 4, 2016

A year ago, March 2015, I wrote an Editorial about the lack of Fiscal Responsibility by the Village Board. Unfortunately, this is Part 2.

In past years, I’ve tried to stay very active and involved in the budgeting process of the Village. It was a frustrating experience because I wasn’t allowed to ask questions or make any comments at the budget meetings that were held before the tentative budget was finalized for the coming year. In some cases, things that I spotted and tried to question miraculously disappeared from the budget the following year. No, these items weren’t removed from the budget. Instead they were simply moved down a layer or two so that they no longer showed up in the budget even though they were in fact still there. So, this year I decided to not waste my time attending budget meetings that lead up to the preparation of the tentative budget and to instead wait for the budget to be finalized and available for inspection just before it’s voted on by the Village Board. Click here for a tentative copy of the 2016/2017 Bellport Village budget. There will be a meeting on Monday, April 11, 2016 at 7pm in the Community Center on Bell Street where Village residents can ask questions about the budget before it is voted on and adopted by the Village Board.

Just because I didn’t bother attending the meetings which led up to the tentative budget for the coming year, it doesn’t mean I didn’t have questions about how the Mayor and Trustees are spending our money. Specifically...

Large diesel engines, as used on the Village’s ferry, are designed to be rebuilt or overhauled over and over again. Why did the Board decide to buy two brand new engines? How much would overhauling the two engines have saved us? When I asked this question, I couldn’t get any numbers, but I was told all about the wondrous new electronics that would be on these new engines. Electronics in a marine environment? Isn’t one of the main advantages of a diesel engine that it is dirt simple and has no real ignition system. I sure hope these two new engines don’t end up being “white, electronic, elephants.”

And while I’m at it, why buy the engines from one company, for about $52,000, and have a different company install them, for about $50,000? In the past, when I was responsible for the purchase and installation of very expensive equipment, we always bought the equipment and installation services from the same source. That way, if there’s a problem, the two companies can’t blame each other. With a single source your position is, “Just fix it!”

The Village just leased a brand new police car for Code Enforcement and they’re buying a brand new Garbage Truck, too. I believe the Village either bought or leased some other brand new vehicles this year. Why are we buying or leasing new vehicles and losing all that depreciation? In the past, the Village always bought sound, but used, vehicles from the Town and State avoiding the depreciation on new vehicles that way. I remember the Village purchasing a used, but perfectly good, SUV from the Ambulance Company for $1. The Village is only one mile by one mile. What’s the big deal if we buy sound, but used vehicles and save a bunch of money? They don’t really go that far on any given day. It’s not like they might break down 200 miles from home.

The new BOND the Village is going to issue to pay for past golf course repairs (about $285,000) and the new Garbage Truck (about $200,000) is going to cost Village residents about $142,000 in interest over the 16 year life of the BOND. That’s a lot of money.

That new Pavilion over at Ho Hum Beach? The engineers are now saying, “Gee, since Mother Nature washed away a bunch of the sand under the Pavilion, why don’t we add another $22,000 worth of additional bracing under the Pavilion?” The real question is, why didn’t they design it that way in the first place so that FEMA would have paid for the additional bracing? Shouldn’t they have anticipated this problem?

Ah, the new Village Security System. I haven’t been able to get an exact figure, but it’s somewhere in the range of $30,000, give or take $5,000. In the past 20 years the Mayor says the existing system saved the Village $800 when it caught, red handed, the commercial truck that knocked over a traffic light pole downtown. Now there’s a “return on investment” for you. Thousands and thousands spent to save $800.

But wait! The Mayor says the new Security System will, “Bring us into the 21st Century!” I think most of Bellport Village was quite happy in the 20th Century, or even the 19th Century for that matter. Isn’t that what the ARB and Historic Districts are all about?

We don’t need a “Fob” system with electronic locks so that Village employees can just swipe their “Fobs” past an electronic door lock to get in. A key works quite well thank you. The whole new Security System ties into a state of the art Payroll System? Don’t we have a perfectly good Payroll System already? How have we been doing payrolls until now? How many Village employees are we talking about? 500? 1,000? Or, more like 20 or 30. Has anyone divided the cost of the payroll system by the number of Village employees to see what this is going to cost us per employee? Do we really need a 21st century Payroll System?

I could go on and on mentioning things like the $72,000 in overruns and extra work for the electrical work at the marina; The $26,000 for relocating an electrical panel at the marina because the Village Board didn’t really pay attention to what they were approving and didn’t like the outcome the first time around; The $8,700 to repair the damaged power cable after landscaping work was done at Osborn Park; The $33,000 spent in preparation for a $17 million sewer district for the Village; And, the $650,000 surplus the Mayor claims the Village has. If we have a surplus, why are we borrowing money and raising taxes?

The problem is that Mayor Fell is thinking like a Superintendent of Schools with practically unlimited funds at his disposal. Not all Village residents are in his financial position. It’s time for the entire Village Board to start spending our money as if it were their money.

So, the bottom line is, we elected this Board and if we don't like the way they're spending our money, we have no one to blame, but ourselves. If we don't like what they're doing, we should replace them. In June, two Trustee positions will be up for grabs. Besides possibly the two incumbents, I know of at least four other residents who have told me they intend to run for office in June. All have said that a major reason they're running is the way the current Board is spending our money and the recent Village tax increases. If we don't like what the Board is doing, it’s time for us to start replacing them.

    


If you have a comment and would like to respond to any of the above, we'd be glad to consider printing your response. Please send your comments to larry@bellport.com. You can read the comments we receive on our Letters To The Editor page.

Sincerely, 

Larry Sribnick

Larry Sribnick
Editor/Publisher, Bellport.com, LLC