JOEL E. GINGOLD LETTER TO THE GAZETTE, 7/18/13 REGARDING THE GOUVEIA PROPERTY DEAL
To the Editor,
The following was sent to each of the members of the Village Board:
To the Village Board,
It seems that we are once again embroiled in controversy over the proposed gift of the Gouveia property to the Village. I should state at the outset that, based upon the information available to date, I do not believe that acceptance of the property would be in the best interest of the Village and its taxpayers, even with the addition of the $1 million Mrs. Gouveia has generously offered for the maintenance of the property.
Most of the reasons for refusal of this offer have been expressed repeatedly by others and I will not take the space and your time by repeating them here. I will leave it at the fact that many Croton residents have publicly expressed opposition to the plan, but I have not seen anything from anyone, outside the Board, who supports the idea.
As it appears that you will continue to pursue the transfer, I believe that, before a decision is made, it is incumbent upon the Board to provide to the citizens of Croton a detailed analysis of the costs and benefits of accepting Mrs. Gouveia's offer, followed by one or more public hearings and a comment period to allow questions to be answered and comments to be made.
There are many forms that such a cost-benefit analysis could take, but I would suggest the following.
It is my understanding that the Village will not take full control of the property until Mrs. Gouveia vacates it. Wishing her a long and healthy life, this could be 20 to 25 years or more. So it may be too early to establish a definitive use for the property.
Therefore, a number of use alternatives should be examined; I would suggest at least three, selected by the Recreation Advisory Committee in consultation with the Conservation Advisory Council and, perhaps, other knowledgeable groups and individuals in the Village.
For each alternative, the analysis would consider:
- Any capital improvements that will be necessary including enlarging the access road, constructing parking facilities, installing fencing and rest rooms, construction of trails, signs and interpretive displays, repair of, or alternatively, demolition of, the existing structures depending on the proposed use, etc., etc.
- Operating costs including Recreation Department and Public Works personnel, Police and Fire coverage, utility costs for electricity, telephone, etc., cost of events held on the property, trash collection, trail maintenance, etc., etc.
- Administrative fees including legal fees, insurance costs, etc., etc.
- The lost tax revenue from the transfer of the property. This should include not only the Village share of the total tax, but the school district and town and county taxes as well, since Croton residents will have to make up the great majority of the tax losses to non-Village jurisdictions. It should also consider that such taxes will rise from year to year, let us assume at 2% per year. At that rate, the taxes in Year 20 will be approximately 50% above the current level.
- Any maintenance or other costs the Village would incur during the time Mrs. Gouveia is in residence on the property.
- All other costs associated with Village ownership, operation and administration of the property.
- A study period of 20 or more years after taking over the property.
- Offsetting these costs will be the $1 million gift that will accompany transfer of the property.
Ideally, the analysis would include estimated escalation in capital costs until the necessary expenditures are made and ongoing escalation in Operating and Administrative costs for the length of the study period. However, this will certainly complicate the analysis and it would probably suffice to perform the studies in today's dollars, while acknowledging that the actual costs will be higher, perhaps significantly higher.
Only after this work has been done and the results presented to the citizens of the Village, can they, as well as the Board, see what the estimated net cost of accepting the property will be. You, and we, can then see what we will derive from this investment. Then, and only then, can a rational decision be made as to the best way to proceed.
There is one other thing that puzzles me, and in no way do I mean to impugn Mrs. Gouveia's motives in offering her property to the Village. Perhaps I'm missing something here, but under the original offer, she would have been exempt from taxes for the remainder of the time she lives on the property, a definite benefit to her. However, with the addition of the $1 million gift, most, if not all of that benefit seems to evaporate. Wouldn't the same thing be accomplished if Mrs. Gouveia continued to pay taxes, perhaps using the $1 million, and if she felt so inclined, she could leave the property to the Village in her will. Are there additional tax or other benefits that might accrue at the time the property is transferred?
I sincerely hope the Board will follow this or a similar path before making a decision on acceptance of the property. If it turns out that the benefits outweigh the costs, perhaps you will convince me and the others who are skeptical of this project that is should be pursued. If the Board simply signs off on the deal with no further investigation, you will be doing a great disservice to yourselves, to the Village and to all Crotonites.
Joel E. Gingold
YOU MAY ALSO HAVE AN INTEREST IN THE FOLLOWING WITH ADDITIONAL RELEVANT LINKS http://everythingcroton.blogspot.com/2013/07/july-2013-virginia-calcutti-letter-re.html