The Garden City Board of Trustees adopted a $65.5 million general fund operating budget for 2019-20 following an April 8 public hearing. Careful review of proposed department spending plans led to revisions following four budget work sessions held in March. The result is a spending plan that includes a tax levy revenue increase successfully capped at 1.55 percent.
“This is the most important document we create as a village as it details the revenues and expenses submitted by department executives for the next fiscal year that will allow them to deliver and maintain the high level of services village residents have come to expect in a cost-effective way,” village administrator Ralph Suozzi said.
Tax levy increases have averaged 1.23 percent over the past four years, according to outgoing finance commissioner and trustee Stephen Makrinos. He thanked the finance department, headed by Irene Woo, village administrator Ralph Suozzi, village auditor Courtney Rosenblatt, the department heads, his fellow trustees and members of CBRAC for all their hard work during the budget season.
Village officials developed the spending plan with several operating principles in mind, including creating a tax cap compliant budget, enhancing technology, lowering maintenance costs and improving service delivery, and seeking grants to supplement, replace or reimburse existing funding sources.
“We have challenged our finance department, village administration and department heads to present a budget that is conservative, provides fair wages to our employees as well as giving them the tools and equipment to allow them to provide the services our residents deserve,” Makrinos said. “Our current budget accomplishes this and more. It provides funding to finally address the stabilization of St. Paul’s, improve the condition of our fire stations and improve our water assets and pool. And for the latter, we will look to implement an 18 percent across-the-board reduction in membership fees.”
For example, $218,000 was included in the capital plan for the cost of server virtualization, which will take 11 file servers and virtualize them to three large servers. Advantages include replacing mostly obsolete operating systems and complete backup of data and servers for immediate disaster recovery. The building department’s digital scan project continues during the 2019-20 fiscal year, while the administration department will begin converting village records from microfilm and paper to digital format.
Shifting focus to the village’s infrastructure, the Garden City Police Department will expand the business district security infrastructure project to include the placement of cameras on Seventh Street and in parking field No. 7N. Currently, cameras are located within field No. 7S. In prior years, cameras were also installed in several village-owned facilities, including the water works building, village hall, village court, the police and fire departments and the library. The cameras, which can be viewed from inside police headquarters and inside the mobile command unit, serve as an important tool in aiding the department in solving crimes. According to Inspector Michael Doyle, the existing cameras have aided police in solving numerous crimes, such as criminal mischief, identity theft and a DWI case in which the subject’s blood/alcohol content was three-and-a-half times the legal limit.
Over at the Garden City Library, expenses are increasing by $114,000, which includes $51,000 for a security guard. Within the fire department, replacement of the four bay doors at Fire Headquarters is slated for 2019-20, as is the addition of cameras and access control doors at all three stations. At Community Park, there are plans to convert existing athletic field lights from halogen to LED on field No. 3.
Phase II of the LED street lighting conversion program will continue on Stewart and Rockaway Avenues, Second Street and Nassau Boulevard. Water main improvements include the replacement of aging infrastructure and increasing the size of the existing main in order to meet the increasing demands of the area—Stewart Avenue from Ring Road west to Clinton Road. Further, chemical pumps at well sites and the pump houses will be replaced, as more than a dozen are 10 or more years old and coming to the end of their life span.
Five-Year Capital Plan Summary
The net cost of capital projects for 2019-20 across all project categories is $12.2 million, and $32.3 million for the five-year total. This is a $3.5 million net increase in 2019-20 from the prior year.
Capital investment costs are trending higher as the village continues rehabilitating or replacing assets well beyond their useful lives. Roads and paving repairs comprise 22 percent of the total capital investment costs for 2019-20, while equipment replacement costs are 13 percent.
Within the finance department, implementation of a new $159,000 tax billings and assessment system to replace the current unsupported, inefficient system (1991) is slated for 2019-20. The new system will integrate with the building and public works departments’ systems, improve public access (web-enabled taxpayer portal), improve reporting and will be hosted on the cloud. Costs include all vendor system and implementation costs, as well as costs for the village’s IT partner to provide project management services.
Visit www.gardencityny.net to read more about the village’s 2019-20 adopted general fund operating budget.