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Village Budget Followup – Riverspace

After Monday’s Village budget meeting was over, I realized that I forgot to ask a critical question: what about the Riverspace development proposal? It was not even mentioned at the meeting.

There is a budget gap to fill for next year, and the big new expense discussed was the streetscape improvements costing around $50k next year.  But if the Village is serious about redeveloping the under-performing, paved paradise at its heart, the Village needs to think big and devote money and resources.  We can’t afford to make a mistake.  Saving a little money now could cost us for 50-100 years.

First I will attempt to explain in general terms the Village’s current standing, and I am sure I will be corrected since I am still unclear of the details, but here it goes.

The Village is luckier than a typical consumer oriented business in that there is a fixed asset, taxable property, that does not go away even in economic downturns, so the majority (55%) of the income is guaranteed, even though property owners will placed under greater strain.  Another chunk comes from water fees, which the Village owns, and once again, everybody needs water even when the economy suffers.  Then there are parking fees, which accounts for about $600k, or 13% of the Village budget.  Another 13% is State aid, which the Village is helpless to control, and that is definitely going to be cut in the upcoming year.

Revenues are projected to decrease by $325k, which is about 6.5%.  I’m not sure exactly where the decrease will be, but its more than just State cutbacks.  The Village intends to keep property tax increases to a minimum, possible no increase if that is possible.  Parking revenues will be the savior.  Revenues will increase for sure since the parking area behind Riverspace is back online and was not generating revenues for 9 months this year.  The talk is to increase parking fees and/or fines to make up the rest of the gap.

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The budget gap, however, will only be around $100k, since expenses will actually go down by about $220k.

The problem is that the Village is thinking small.  It is scrimping to get some extra revenues from parking to pay for streetscape improvements and has no money toward planning and development.  The Riverspace block is a HUGE asset that is being under-utilized, which is costing us through unrealized revenues.  We can monetize this asset, but it will take an investment to do it right.  A large scale development is a 100 year commitment, and it would be foolish not to devote resources to make sure it is done correctly.

Nyack is in the relatively fortunate position of having significant credit available through bonding.  It has used only about 30% of its bonding capacity.  I can’t think of a better purpose to borrow money than to invest in a major development at the heart of downtown.  The initial costs for planning would be modest in terms of capital budgeting.  Much of the planning work may not be viable capital costs, but perhaps the Village could bond money for DPW work and use the money freed up to pay for expertise in planning and development.

The Village lacks the capacity to plan its own future.  We paid for a comprehensive plan, but that just sets the framework.  The Village hires an attorney because it needs legal expertise.  For a project of this scale, the Village needs development expertise.

We are lucky to have Riverspace who WANTS to build a wonderful long-term asset for us.  This is very complicated, and the Village needs to step to the plate and act as a full partner.  This project is for all of us, and we have to do it right.

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