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Letter: Citizens’ Budget Review and Advisory Committee Clarifies Myths on Village Finances

As the vice chairperson of the Citizens’ Budget Review & Advisory Committee, (CBRAC) I’d like to clarify a few items that have been published lately and equally important, I urge my fellow residents to get informed and make sure they vote on March 15.

The CBRAC is a volunteer committee, members being elected by the four Property Owners’ Associations (POAs) of Garden City. Oversight is provided by the Joint Conference Commission (JCC). The CBRAC, an outgrowth of the POAs, is a way for residents to be involved and informed about our village’s finances and underlying operations since we update our POA membership regularly and make our annual report available. The CBRAC serves as a great vehicle for transparency and grassroots citizen advocacy. Each member proactively applied for a spot to serve and was vetted by the POA and JCC, based on our experience and time commitments. The CBRAC are not elected officials, so we do not set policy, but we use our collective industry experience as financial experts to make observations and recommendations to the village department managers, the village administrator and the BOT on financial and strategic management issues. All of our 2010 recommendations were thoughtfully considered, many were adopted in various forms and we’re off to a great start in 2011. This year’s CBRAC is comprised of six returning members and two new members, who are listed below. To be clear on some claims being made — Ray Rudolph and Ron Tadross were never members of nor involved with CBRAC. Tom Trypuc was last a member of CBRAC in 2008 for the June 2008 thru May 2009 budget year.

There is one particular financial sound bite that I’ve seen published and that I’d like to address for the benefit of my fellow residents: “The village has borrowed $19,000 per day to support the budget and this is not sustainable.” I’m struck by the apples/oranges character of this $19,000 number. Let me clarify:  the $19,000/day number is arrived at by taking the village’s $6.9 million bond offering and dividing by 365 days. There are many reasons why this is an inappropriate measure.  First, the term of the bonds is 10 years, not one. Second, the projects they are financing have useful lives of 15-20 years, not one. Why would anyone divide by one year? Dividing by one is like taking your whole 30-year mortgage and dividing by 12 months and calling that your monthly rent! The allegation that this is not sustainable is also misinformed, given that inclusive of the $6.9 million bond, the village would still be at less than 3 percent of its available debt limit and is one of only 15 municipalities in New York State that is rated Aaa by the Moody’s Investors Service, Inc, an independent rating agency.

Projects that have long lives are exactly the type of capital projects that should be spread out over many tax years, so that taxpayers don’t have large swings in their tax bills. If we’re going to enjoy the newly paved parking fields for say 20 years, then we should spread the bill over all the residents who live here for those same 20 years. And when interest rates are really low, like the 2.6 percent rate the bonds have, it makes more sense to finance that long term project than to pay it all off with today’s taxpayer dollars. In fact, bonding this project was a recommendation of the CBRAC.

Numbers don’t lie, but if misapplied they can be misleading. I urge you to take the time to be an informed voter.

Kristina Russo

The 2011 CBRAC Members:

Chairman: Richard P. Bankosky

Vice Chairman: Kristina Russo

Joe Courtade

William (Bill) Holub

Tom McAardle

Courtney Rosenblatt

Stephen Makrinos

Peter Meaney