On Friday, March 19, Maybrook Mayor Dennis Leahy received an email from the New York State Comptroller’s Office informing him that their review of the 2020 Annual Update Document for Maybrook revealed that the village is no longer under fiscal stress.
There are four levels of fiscal stress that a municipality can receive: no designation, susceptible fiscal stress, moderate fiscal stress and significant fiscal stress. In 2018, the Village of Maybrook received a score of 55.8, moderate fiscal stress. In 2019, their score was 62.5, meaning that the village was under moderate fiscal stress again. The Village of Maybrook’s 2020 Annual Update Document score is 24.2 (a 38.3-point drop) with no designation.
The Maybrook Village Board worked hard to make the municipality more fiscally stable. In previous years, the village board appropriated a fund balance to offset the tax burden on the residents and to make up for the shortfall to meet expenditures. The Village of Maybrook identified the issues of the level of the village’s fund balance in the village’s accountants’ audit in the fall of 2018. The village board took immediate action in the 2019-2020 budget with a 9 percent tax increase, with zero fund balance being applied in the budget.
Leahy had a conversation with the New York State Comptroller’s Office before the 2019-2020 budget adoption, in which he was advised that the village was under taxing its residents. During the 2019-2020 budget year, the village kept a watchful eye on expenditures and expected a surplus in the village’s finances to be applied to the existing fund balance.
A significant reason for the village’s low fund balance was the critical and urgent need in 2008 through 2015 that the village address its aging and failing infrastructure that had experienced a lack of attention in prior administrations. The village’s urgent infrastructure improvements included the construction of a new $5.3 million sewer treatment plant to ensure the plant’s compliance with federal and New York State regulations, avoid significant threatened fines and allow for commercial growth in the village to extend the village’s tax base and revenue stream.
“The sewer treatment plant was the largest capital project in the history of the village and an extraordinarily significant investment given the size and tax base of the village,” Leahy said.
In 2015, the sewer treatment plant was completed with minimal fines incurred. The Village of Maybrook was able to secure an Environmental Facilities Corporation Grant with a 0.7 percent interest rate to lessen the surcharge burden on residents. However, between 2008 and 2015, the village experienced the great recession and the closing of Maybrook Elementary School (the only school within the village), which further dampened real property market values.
In addition to addressing infrastructure issues, the village also identified and put a plan in place to generate additional revenue to offset the tax burden on the residents. The village has limited revenue streams and the burden falls on individual taxpayers, as there is not a significant number of commercial taxpayers in Maybrook. Compounding this problem is that a number of businesses in the village over the years have obtained tax assessment relief through litigation, which in turn lessens the village’s anticipated revenue.
Beginning in 2012, the village worked hard to generate new revenue through a concerted effort to increase economic development in Maybrook. In September 2017, the board of trustees introduced a plan to revitalize an area of the village that incentivized shovel-ready sites for development. This multifaceted plan included the adoption of zoning code amendments that created a Traditional Downtown Design District and a necessary but costly environmental review process that produced a Generic Environmental Impact Statement. The plan was adopted in 2018 and the village has been working with the county and a private not-for-profit economic development organization to attract developers and businesses to Maybrook.
In addition, the Village of Maybrook annexed the property for the Galaxy project. Galaxy Limited, LLC will redevelop 82.9 acres of mostly wetlands for commercial use. The project will open a road through the village’s Main Street and run parallel north of Maybrook to create a business park with commercial rail service, which will revitalize Main Street and generate desperately needed revenue for the village.
The village board identified a deficit in the sewer fund in the village’s audit in the fall of 2019. They adopted a sewer rate increase from $4.15 to $5.00 per thousand gallons to address the shortfall. Rates will be revisited yearly and adjusted accordingly on a going forward basis. The apparent overestimation of revenues is due in part to the village’s water and sewer deficits and its related delinquent taxes which the village is made whole by the county but only in the following fiscal year. This will be closely monitored moving forward.
On April 27, 2020, the Village Board adopted the 2020-2021 budget with a four percent increase with zero fund balance being utilized.
“In closing, the Village of Maybrook Board of Trustees have taken significant steps to correct the village’s fund balance level in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 budgets, including both revenue raising initiatives and non-utilization of fund balance monies to supplement the budgets,” Leahy wrote to the New York State Comptroller’s Newburgh Regional Office on June 12, 2020. “The village will continue on this path by more closely monitoring our progress going forward on water and sewer issues while implementing moderate budget increases to reach our goal.”
At the village board meeting on March 22, Leahy acknowledged the board for their hard work making the village more fiscally stable.
“I want to congratulate the village board for their efforts in getting the village back on track,” he said. “We, the village board will continue to push forward in our efforts to rebuild the Village of Maybrook for today and for future generations!”
That evening, Leahy also encouraged village residents to attend village board meetings in order to receive accurate information on Maybrook’s financial status.
“A lot of false information and fear has been spread throughout the village about this topic over the past few years,” he said. “My message to the residents is simple, if you want the facts, you need to attend these meetings and not believe everything you hear or read secondhand on social media. We see enough of this on the major news networks and now social media empowers individuals to do the same on their own. People are entitled to their opinion however people are not entitled to their own facts!”