Westchester strives to renovate infrastructure
Westchester Village Manager Janet Matthys says infrastructure is a top issue the town faces.
Updated: January 28, 2013 1:58AM
WESTCHESTER — With April municipal elections approaching, we sat down with village administrators to ask about issues facing their community. Janet Matthys was named Westchester village manager in January, after serving as interim manager and finance director since June 2011.
Q. Can you briefly describe the top three issues that Westchester faces?
A. Aging infrastructure, community development and code enforcement and property maintenance issues. Most of the town is about 50 years old. Just in 2012, we’ve had 31 water main breaks, and our roads also are 50 years old. We just passed a nonhome-rule sale tax referendum to pay for infrastructure improvements. We anticipate approximately $630,000 a year, which will be used to pay off debt service for bonds. Interest rates are low, so we will get favorable financing to go forward.
We have some code enforcement and maintenance issues. A lot of people don’t have the financial resources to maintain their property as they would like. We’re keeping an eye open that empty homes are maintained.
Q. Given the economy, how would you describe Westchester’s fiscal situation?
A. The village passed an ordinance so that the general fund balance is required to be 30 percent of average annual expenditures. That’s prudent, because the state is usually three months behind in submitting payments for sales and income taxes. The poor economy and infrastructure repairs have eaten into that balance, but we’re still in compliance with the 30 percent level.
We’re not had any layoffs or furlough time, though we’ve postponed hiring several open positions. Six employees availed themselves of early retirement incentives so we can replace them with younger, less expensive staff. For the first six months, we’re right on target with the budget.
Q. What is Westchester doing to promote economic development?
A. Two months ago we hired Melissa Headley with a master’s in urban planning as our new community development director. We would love to get our empty storefronts filled. We’re working jointly with our local Chamber of Commerce, building a positive relationship between the village and local businesses. In January, we’ll be hosting a program through State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s office on how local businesses can get state contracts.
Q. How is the state’s pension crisis affecting Westchester?
A. Due to the state’s fiscal crisis, we’re not receiving $700,000 from state’s capital funds or grants. Going forward if the state needs to use more of the sales tax to fund pensions, that will have an impact on us.
Q. Do you think Westchester is doing a good job conducting its business transparently?
A. Absolutely. The board packet is posted on the website prior to meetings. We provide a financial report six months into the year comparing the budget to actual expenses and revenues. The village publishes a monthly newspaper. Everything is out there that can be legally put out there.