Brightwaters officials are mulling borrowing as much as $3.3 million to update street and canal infrastructure in the village — its first potential bond in more than two decades.
At a March 21 public information session at village hall, more than a hundred residents asked questions and offered opinions on the proposed bond, which would repair 16 roads, purchase Department of Public Works equipment and repair damaged canal sections.
During the presentation, Mayor Joe McDermott told the audience that the village board has been exploring financial options for months. “We looked at ways to fund the projects. We looked at a bunch of different ways,” he said.
The village has issued a preliminary budget for next year that includes paying the debt service on the bond, as well as a 2.7 percent increase in taxes, which will require a vote on piercing the state-mandated tax cap. The board will hold a budget hearing at its meeting on Monday.
At the bond information session, Trustee Christian Sullivan presented the findings of an engineering report commissioned after severe rainfall in August 2014 flooded the village.
The report found that “if you don’t have a consistent road program, if you don’t repair soon, you run the risk of rebuilding roads” at a higher cost, Sullivan said.
Financial adviser David Tanner of Liberty Financial Services, who was retained by the village board to advise on the proposal, compared bonding to pay-as-you-go options.
“It’s so difficult to find the money to pay for these large projects,” Tanner said. “How do you raise this kind of capital while staying within the tax cap?”
He noted that the last time the village bonded for capital improvements was a $1.27 million bond in 1991 for similar road and canal work.
“Borrowing allows you to allocate the cost to the people receiving the benefit,” Tanner said, while pay-as-you-go only affects people living in the village at the time of the project.
The village board couldn’t answer several questions from the residents about specific dollar amounts to be borrowed, though the trustees said repaving the 16 roads is estimated to cost $1.4 million.
Resident Joan Manahan asked if the bond could be repaid without tax increases on the residents.
“It all depends on how much debt service we’ll have,” McDermott replied.
Resident Steve Griswold said, “Some of these repairs are definitely necessary, but how would we pay it if we threw out this bond issue?”
McDermott said the village would “do one road at a time and we hope the canal doesn’t collapse.”
Resident Sandra Rising asked why the board didn’t alert residents to the possibility of filing a petition to put the bond proposal to a referendum.
“You talk about transparency. You talk about making things clear,” she said to the board.
McDermott said he believed the board has acted in good faith. “To me it’s pretty clear,” he said.
The village board is still considering the bond issue and how much to borrow, according to village Clerk Donna Barnett.