Written by Marilou Giammona, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 25 January 2013 00:00
Stewart Manor Mayor James Kelly and Deputy Mayor Robert C. Fabio said they will not seek re-election at upcoming village elections March 19.
Kelly, who also served on the board as a trustee from 2001 to 2007, said that while he was proud of what the board has accomplished during his tenure, “I will not be abler to invest the time and effort required due to personal and professional obligations.”
“While being a member of the board is an honor, and a very rewarding experience, a four-year term is a significant commitment,” Kelly said. Fabio will also not seek re-election, but together with the current board will “work in earnest over the next couple of months to work on a really good budget for the coming year,” he said at the Stewart Manor trustees meeting on Jan. 8.
It appears next year’s village budget will have a solid foundation upon which to build, based on an independent auditors’ report performed by Albrecht, Viggiano, Zureck & Company, P.C. The accounting firm audited the village’s financial statements of the governmental activities, each major fund and the aggregate remaining fund information for the fiscal year ended May 31, 2012, and published its report in November. The report can be found on the village web site: www.stewarwtmanor.org.
“We have a very, very strong fund balance, over $800,000 as of May 31, 2012,” Fabio said. “In meeting with the auditors and going over where our fund balance was only a few years ago … if we encountered a storm like Sandy [back then], we would have barely had enough cash to pay for some of the costs out of pocket,” he said. To date, out-of-pocket costs due to Superstorm Sandy are $71,638, of which the village has received slightly more than $20,000 in insurance claims, Fabio said.
More reimbursement to the village from insurance and FEMA is expected, he said, adding that the village has been in constant contact with state officials to have additional storm-related tree work done to avert more out-of-pocket costs. The village DPW continues to handle a large number of tree damage, but some of the work is beyond the scope of the village’s equipment and manpower, Fabio added.
The village’s available fund balance has increased by more than $600,000 compared with four years ago, according to Kelly, who attributes the surplus to not only reducing many village expenses but also “taking a close look at and making significant changes to how our village operates. The pool and village court are two excellent examples. “These two critical areas of the village no longer operate at a loss,” he said.
Improving the profitability of the Stewart Manor Pool goes hand-in-hand with fostering a family-friendly environment for members. A big boon in terms of profits was introducing food service via an agreement with the Stewart Manor Country Club. Pool members and guests now have the option of ordering hot and cold meals during limited hours throughout the summer. As for the village justice court, an outside firm was hired to handle collections, which brought down outstanding receivables.
Rosemarie And Sandy
In addition to cleanup from Superstorm Sandy, some of the fund balance this year was used to complete capital projects throughout the village, such as replacing the decayed retaining wall on the north end of Fernwood Terrace and making necessary repairs and improvements to village hall and the DPW garage, according to Kelly. The beautification of the Covert Avenue LIRR crossing is another project that was started using these funds, he added.
To be sure, residents have not had to bear the burden of that rise in fund balance. “Village taxes have had a net decrease over the past three years, and as we work on preparing next year’s budget, my goal is to have no tax increase again this year,” Kelly said. “Trustee Fabio and Village Administrator [Rosemarie] Biehayn have worked tirelessly on our village finances over the past four years, and their hard work is the main reason our village has accomplished its financial and budgetary goals.”
Fabio echoed Kelly’s nod toward Biehayn’s role in the current state of the village’s financial health. “The village should be very secure in the fact that we have a reasonable balance and are also able to make reasonable purchases and improvements in the village under the watchful eye of Rosemarie and the board,” he said. “The auditors were very pleased with the village’s finances, particularly compared to other villages and towns on Long Island and throughout New York who are borrowing from fund balances or are basically borrowing to pay for operating expenses. And when you see something like Sandy happen and you read in the paper about villages who can’t get their village hall repaired or can’t get things done and they wish they could borrow money, it makes you realize how important it is to make sure that we are fiscally sound,” he said.
“Obtaining grants from various sources has also played a significant role in helping keep village taxes in check,” Kelly added. “These grants have been used to acquire necessary equipment for our fire and public works departments and to make improvements to our pool and village structures. Additionally, we have received final approval for a $50,000 grant towards installing a much needed natural gas generator for our village hall. This project will be going out to bid shortly. We have also received preliminary approval for a $100,000 grant to be used for improving and beautifying Covert Avenue,” he said.
Kelly points out that the village’s fiscal gains have not come at the expense of services. Administrative and DPW staffing have been increased, “allowing us to operate more efficiently and provide better services to our residents. This improvement was seen time and time again in the exceptional response of our village during the two major hurricanes and the many severe winter storms we have endured over the past four years.”
Candidates for the upcoming election must submit their petitions, along with a minimum of 25 supporting signatures, to the village clerk between Feb. 5 and Feb. 12. Open positions include the mayor, two trustees and the village justice.