Suffern Village Board approves bond plan, Abato blocks financial restructuring

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

SUFFERN – A proposed emergency plan to bond more than $1.5 million to maintain cash flow was passed by the Suffern Village Board on Wednesday, but a proposed state financial review was unable to poceed along with it.

On Wednesday, the Board approved a resolution to approve the bond package, which included a $345,000 sewer revenue anticipation note, a $600,000 budget note and a $600,000 revenue deficiency note. The bonds had been characterized by Village Treasurer Michael Genito as a way to alleviate payroll and cash flow deficiencies which were predicted to run the village dry by the end of the year.

At the same time, all four village trustees voted to request assistance from New York’s Financial Restructuring Board, which has the power to initiate a comprehensive financial review of a municipality’s finances.

However, such a review must also be approved by a municipality’s chief executive officer, in this case Mayor Patricia Abato. Though the Board approved the move, Abato rejected it in favor of the emergency bonds, effectively stalling a potential review.

The bond vote, which was pulled from an emergency meeting on Tuesday, was initially met with skepticism from members of the board who argued not enough information was immediately available for a decision on the bonds.

According to Trustee Ed Markunas, the board was “disappointed” by the response and did not understand why state assistance was not considered an option by Abato.

“The mayor asked us to consider floating approximately $1.5 million in bonds at an emergency meeting earlier this week, with little accompanying explanation except that the village was in danger of not meeting its current payroll obligations,” Markunas said. “It does not make sense that she would reject the state’s help given the village’s situation.”

Still, some outside review was included in the Wednesday vote. A majority of the Board also approved the retention of Clarkstown Town Attorney Amy Mele as a special counsel to the Village on matters which include budgeting, grants and sales of surplus assets. Markunas stated Mele, who will be paid on an hourly basis, had not been assigned any tasks and would not be consulted until the immediate crisis had dissipated.

The village’s struggles with its budget, particularly in its water and sewer funds, prompted State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to delcare it the most fiscally-stressed village in New York in February 2014. DiNapoli argued the situation had been exacerbated by irresponsible budgeting practices.

The village subsequently redirected $101,000 in the sewer fund an $148,000 in the water fund to help alleviate the village’s deficit crisis.