City borrows $10 million, half for well fixes


On April 10, the Glen Cove City Council approved a plan to bond almost $10 million, nearly doubling its average borrowing over the prior two years. The extra funding was needed to pay for necessary upgrades to the city’s water infrastructure, as well as measures to restore Pryibil and Morgan beaches after a series of severe winter storms left them deficient of sand.

Hanging over the council’s decision was the prospect of a potential water shortage this coming summer. About 90 percent of the emergency borrowing would be spent on renovations to the city’s wells. Prior to casting their votes, each and every councilmember agonized about the urgent necessity of the plan.

“I don’t like spending your money,” Councilman Joe Capobianco said. “I feel like we have no choice in this regard. There’s nothing more that I can say. Water is vital to our lifeblood as a city.”

Councilman Michael Zangari acknowledged, “We’re borrowing double what we did last year, but it has to be done.”

“Some of you may think that putting $10 million out there in one night is not responsible,” Councilwoman Marsha Silverman said. “But this is absolutely necessary. It’s unfortunate that the seven of us are put in this position.”

Silverman added that the necessity of borrowing suggested the need for a finance committee, which she has pushed for in recent council meetings, “so that these kinds of things don’t become recurring emergencies year after year.”

Among the relatively expensive non-emergency expenses is a new aerial ladder truck for the fire department, which costs about $1.3 million. In an email, Chief Robert Marino expressed gratitude for the purchase, for which the council approved borrowing in late March. The old truck had been in service for over 30 years, he explained, adding, “the repairs and maintenance required had become quite costly.”

The borrowing will add approximately $625,000 to the city’s annual debt service payments, which will have to be offset by a combination of spending cuts in its operating budget and a tax increase. City Controller Sandra Clarson said that when she and the council hammer out the 2019 budget this summer, they’ll be looking to cut costs by decreasing overtime and perhaps cutting back on staff as well. But, she added, “$624,000 is a lot of money,” and taxes would likely have to be raised in order to account for those payments.

“Every one percent tax increase is about $200,000 to $250,000 in additional revenues,” Clarson said. If all other factors remained constant, the two percent limit that New York State imposes on municipal tax increases means that the city would have to find another way — either by spending cuts or alternate revenues — to cover between approximately $125,000 and $225,000.

Clarson said that it’s not quite that simple. If the city winds up closing out a debt from years ago, that would take a chunk out of the total debt service payment.