NY Forward Update – LPC meeting #5

Dear Residents,

Last evening at the NY Forward Local Planning Committee Meeting #5, the committee voted unanimously to recommend to New York State that the following projects receive state funding:

  • Renovate Van Buren Hall
  • Restore the Bandstand and install public restrooms
  • Make playground, parking, and ADA-accessibility improvements to Rothermel Park
  • Make pedestrian-friendly improvements to the Village Green area
  • Support the Albany Avenue project improvements
  • Install lighting in the village square
  • Renovate the McNary Center to accommodate a childcare center for working families
  • Install a walking path at the Vanderpoel House
  • $300K fund for private projects administered by the Columbia County Economic Development Council ($30K cap per project)

A few facts about the project slate submitted:

  • Approximately $3.2M in total projects were recommended to the State. The State will then select $2.25M worth of projects to be funded. Some projects recommended to the State will not receive funding.
  • Approximately 81% of the project funding is to support public projects (Rothermel Park, Van Buren Hall, Albany Avenue, etc.). 19% is to support private projects (Day Care Center, Historical Society, and the private project fund).

The slide deck presented at last night’s meeting will be posted to KinderhookNYF.com. My comments last evening that provide some background on the project slate are below. The next step in the process is to submit a Strategic Investment Plan that includes the recommended projects. The final plan is due to the State mid-December.

I want to thank the Local Planning Committee Members for all your time and dedication. I know that each one of you care deeply about our village and want to see what’s best for all. I also want to thank the State representatives and consultants for their time and assistance throughout the process.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at mayor@villageofkinderhook.org.



Mayor’s Remarks

Thank you for your patience and engagement throughout the NY Forward process over the past several months. When we received the grant, I was told, “You thought getting the money was hard, just wait until you have to start giving it away!” This has turned out to be very true.

I want to thank that State representatives and consultants who have guided us throughout the process up to this point. You all have been great to work with and attentive to the specific needs and nuances of our community.

As the mayor of the village, and co-chair of this committee, I believe that my job is not to impose and direct my vision on the village, but to facilitate a process by which through public engagement, transparency, time, listening, and conversation, we get to a pathway that is best for the community. Through this type of process, people rarely get everything that they want, but as a whole, we usually figure out what is right for the community.

Tonight’s meeting is important, as we will decide which projects we will send to the State for their final selection. I feel that although the State has administered and guided us through the first four LPC meetings and the two public workshops, it is appropriate for us as community members to take the lead at this meeting. This is why we have turned the tables around to face the public and why I will be guiding us through this evening’s meeting. The decisions that we make tonight will be our community’s decisions.

I want to start the discussion with providing some background on the financial situation of the village, as it will impact how we think about the projects submitted. First some basics: the village’s annual budget is around $1.2M. This past year, we taxed residents $380K. We will bring in around $425K or so in sales tax from the county. The rest of our income is through fees, services, grants, and other income sources.

NYS has a tax cap in which municipalities are typically only able to raise taxes annually up to 2% of what they tax residents. 2% of $380,000 is $7,600. That is how much we can raise taxes without additional measures, such as a resolution and vote from the board and approval from the state comptroller’s office.

Last year, we stayed in compliance with the NYS tax cap and raised taxes on average just over $15 per home and business.

In the past 10 years, the only time we exceeded the NYS tax cap was in 2018, when the village raised taxes by over 4%. The reason for this was because the trustees at the time voted to put a new roof on Van Buren Hall. The new roof cost $527,000. We took approximately $97,000 from the village’s savings account and then bonded (or took out a loan) for $430,000 to be paid over 20 years. Our annual payment on this bond for the next fiscal year will be $42,000, or 11% of our annual tax levy. Another way of looking at it is each home and business is paying about $67 next year towards the roof.

I give you this example as context. We have two major projects that we are embarking on. We need to replace the two sections of water mains under Albany Avenue and William Street. Both sections of water mains were installed in 1920 and are well past their use life. Recently in Troy, they had a water main fail that was installed in 1916. It caused a sink hole and significant damage. It is imperative that we replace these sections of water main, or we risk significant disruption of services and increased emergency cost to replace them if they do fail. Please keep in mind that we have a closed-loop water system. A watermain problem under one street impacts our entire village water system.

The estimated cost to replace both sections of water main under Albany and William, re-pave the roads, and improve the sidewalks and drainage, is approximately $7M… around $3.5M for each project.

The village has not saved for these projects over the past several decades. We don’t have anything to put towards them. It is not a criticism, it’s just a fact. This is why we have aggressively pursued grants, applied for the state water revolving fund which can issue low interest and long-term loans to bring the annual cost down, and it’s why we are increasing water rates (which hasn’t been done in 10 years).

We received a $1.8M federal grant for Albany Avenue. We will be voting to ask the state for $400K more through NYF. That leaves $4.8M left to the taxpayers for these projects.

For comparison, in 2018, we bonded $430,000 to be paid over 20 years, and we had to raise taxes over 4%. What do you think is going to happen when we have to bond $4.8M?

In addition, we also must continue to maintain our roads, cover usual village operating expenses, maintain the park and trail, etc. And we must figure out a way to save for the future, because we do not want to put our kids in the same position that we find ourselves in today – where we have critical infrastructure improvements that must be conducted, and no savings to pay for them.

Raising taxes by 15-20-25% may not seem like a lot to many in this room, but it can be devasting to residents on a fixed income who are already struggling with inflation.

The point here is that over the next 40-50 years, there is no way we are going to be able to afford to make these necessary infrastructure improvements to our water main, conduct usual village maintenance on our roads and parks, and… be able to do things like renovate Van Buren Hall; improve the Bandstand (other than maybe a coat of paint); or make improvements to Rothermel Park.

The village projects that the LPC is considering, that we all are considering, are truly a once in a generation opportunity. If we do not prioritize these projects, we most likely won’t have the money to do so for the next 50 years, and it will be left to our children and grandchildren to figure it out.

With respect to the private projects, they are all worthwhile projects. Every member of the LPC up here wants to see these projects succeed. No one wants anyone to fail. I want everyone to know and to fully understand that a vote no for your project is not a vote that we want your project to fail or that we do not want you to succeed. It is a decision that we feel the money would be best use going toward another project that would be better overall for the community.

It was brought up a few times during these meetings whether LPC members should vote on their personal feelings or whether they should represent the community. I know many LPC members have had community members approach them with their opinions. I know I certainly have, and I have also asked residents during random conversations what they thought as well. I will say, overwhelmingly, every single community member has communicated to me that they want to see the public projects funded. Every single person.

Again, it’s not that the private projects are not worthy, but that the money would be best used towards upgrading our community infrastructure that would benefit everyone and be transformative for our village.

There are four main goals that have been identified by the LPC through public engagement.

  1. Enhance the vibrancy of the historic downtown​​.
  1. Make our streets more comfortable and inviting for pedestrians and bicyclists​​​.
  1. Provide community gathering and recreation spaces for all ages and backgrounds​.
  1. Expand our role as a rural tourism destination.

The public projects fulfill all these goals.

I would like to start the conversation this evening by proposing that we submit the following projects to the State for final approval.

  • Renovate Van Buren Hall
  • Restore the Bandstand and install public restrooms
  • Make playground, parking, and ADA-accessibility improvements to Rothermel Park
  • Make pedestrian-friendly improvements to the Village Green area
  • Support the Albany Avenue project improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians
  • Install lighting in the village square
  • Renovate the McNary Center to accommodate a childcare center for working families
  • Install a walking path at the Vanderpoel House

I also propose that we establish a $300K fund for all private projects. This fund will be administered by the Columbia County Economic Development Council, which also has a fund of over $3M to provide low interest loans to small business owners throughout the county. All private projects will be able to apply for up to $30,000 of NYF money with a low-interest loan if needed to complete their projects.

Considering all the outstanding private projects that have been submitted, I think $30K cash and a low interest loan in these times when interest rates are sky high, is fair and appropriate for our community.  All six private projects before us tonight are eligible for $30K as well as the ones that were eliminated from consideration at the last meeting.

Overall, the projects that I just proposed with the private project fund totals approximately $3.2M. The State will have to whittle this down nearly a million dollars to $2.25M. There will be projects that we submit that will not be funded.

Overall, we’re looking at 6 public projects, two private non-profit projects, and through the $300K fund, at least 10 private projects that will receive funding.

I believe this proposal meets the goals established by the LPC and our community, is representative of the overwhelming feedback that we have received from residents, it is fair to everyone, and is the best use of NY Forward funds.

At this time, I turn the floor over to the LPC members for their comments.