Budget time means tough decisions in Walden

By Jared Castañeda
Posted 4/24/24

Walden’s board of trustees faced a difficult decision during the village’s annual budget report last Tuesday, April 16: should funding go toward restoring Pleasant Avenue or replacing the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Budget time means tough decisions in Walden


Walden’s board of trustees faced a difficult decision during the village’s annual budget report last Tuesday, April 16: should funding go toward restoring Pleasant Avenue or replacing the roof for Wooster Grove’s gymnasium?

John Queenan, an engineer of Lanc and Tully Engineering, opened the budget review with insight into several infrastructure projects. Starting with water, the village must restart its well rehab and initiate inspections and cleanings for its water storage tank. Village Manager John Revella stated that both projects would be doable under the proposed water fund.

Queenan then raised a few sewer projects, including the decommissioning of Tin Brook’s pump station costing $2.2 million, improvements to the sewer plant costing $3 million, and most crucially, repairs to the plant’s internal pump vault and control system. To cover the decommission and improvements, he and his team would use funding from the village’s Water Quality Improvement Project grant from the DEC and apply for a loan from the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation.

“We’ll see how much Tin Brook is going to cost, what’s left over from that WQIP grant, and then we’ll most likely be applying it to the New York State EFC for a loan to cover the rest of the improvements necessary at the plant,” Queenan said.

Revella speculated that the plant’s internal pump vault and control system repairs, which are not covered by the WQIP grant, would prove difficult to fund. He suggested that the board use the sewer fund to afford a BAN, or bond anticipation note.

“We propose that whatever BAN we can afford in the sewer fund, we would get to cover that $200,000 STP plus as much as we can of the other part of it,” Revella said.

Next up, Queenan highlighted road repairs needed for Pleasant and Gladstone Avenue, comprising curbing sidewalks, paving, milling, and filling. He noted that, between both streets, Pleasant Avenue urgently needs repairs, totaling $475,00 with paving or $401,500 without. Queenan concluded his comments with a complete roof replacement for Wooster Grove’s leaky gymnasium, estimated to cost $150,000.

“You gotta pave Pleasant Avenue. If you’re going to do work there, that road is in horrible shape,” Queenan said. “Gladstone is not as bad from my perspective, you could probably do curbs and sidewalks without paving for another year.”

After Queenan left, the board asked questions and discussed individual lines with Revella. Trustee Bill Taylor asked Revella if he implemented any corrective actions to this year’s budget following the numerous budget transfers from last year. Revella asserted that budget transfers are inevitable, especially year-end transfers.

“What did you learn from last year that you’ve implemented some corrective action?” Taylor asked. “Because there was a significant number of budget transfers last year.”

“Some of the ones last year were year-end, they always happen,” Revella responded. “There will be another one year-end because when there’s a balance, we have to fix everything to go to fund balance.”

“There’s not a lot you can do with this budget because it’s so broken down into pieces that they can’t anticipate all of those little things from happening,” he continued. “So they’re going to happen again.”

Trustee Becky Pearson noticed that the foot-patrol police line went down from $253,534 in 2023 to $113,543 this year and asked Revella what would happen if the police department could not hire enough full-time officers to maintain the police overtime line. Revella explained that the salaries from vacant positions would go toward the overtime line, and any leftover funds from the police line would go toward next year’s fund balance.

“I understand the 12-hour shifts and I understand having to hire three new, full-time officers for that if we need to do that. But we took a lot of money out of the part-time line,” Pearson said. “If we do not get those people hired, we’re still going to need overtime money because you’re not going to have the full staff that you think you’re going to have.”

“Say you didn’t hire someone. You have a salary line that’s not going to be paid,” Revella answered. “That could be used for overtime to cover if that happens. The money’s there.”

Trustee Ralph Garrison Jr. felt that the DPW asked for too many requests for this year, including a new car, a new truck, a new asphalt hot box and a refurbishment for the department’s current truck. Revella suggested that the board could give them the asphalt hot box and refurbishment for now.

“I don’t like to take away from anybody, but you’re asking for a new car, a new truck with a center and a plow, a new asphalt hot box, and you want to refurbish the truck that you already have,” Garrison said. “I don’t think they need all of it this year.”

The last two major hurdles for the board were the Pleasant Avenue’s repairs and the gym’s roof replacement. Pearson and Trustee Kristie Hall agreed that the roof replacement should be a priority, while Trustee Chris Batson reminded the board that initiating both projects simultaneously would exceed the general fund.

“I think we need a roof for the gym. If you have a program in there that’s successful and you have teens and kids, that to me is a priority,” Pearson said.

“If we go for the roof, that just eliminates the roads because you can’t work on the roof plus roads and be under $550,000. You will exceed it,” Batson said.

Revella proposed a solution: if the board takes out a bond for $510,300 and secures a Community Development Block Grant for $175,000, it can cover not only Pleasant Avenue and Wooster Grove’s gym but also the DPW’s asphalt hot box and truck refurbishment.

“If we get a CDBG grant for $175,000, we could put that into Pleasant,” he said. “This is all not going to happen this year; the bond doesn’t come in until the end of June, and the bidding’s going to be in the fall. There’s going to be spring and summer projects anyway.”

The salaries for the board included $7,905 for the mayor and $6,375 for each trustee. Other salaries included $119,678 for the village manager, $70,458 for the clerk, $91,155 for the treasurer, and $148,526 for the police chief.

The budget’s appropriations totaled $12,999,361, with a tax cap of 2.67%. At the end of the review, the board voted to approve Revella’s budget report and hold a public hearing for the CDBG on May 7 at 6:30 p.m.