Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"If I Had a Million Dollars"

In the debate later on today, Mayor William Hallenbeck can be counted on to remind voters that the City's fund balance has increased by more than a million dollars during his tenure as mayor. It's true. It has.

At the end of 2011, the day before Hallenbeck took office, the unrestricted fund equity, according to the audit report, was $1,472,781. At the end of 2014, according to the balance sheet submitted to the state comptroller's office (the audit report for 2014 has not yet been received), the unassigned fund balance was $3,284,665. It's not entirely clear how this increase in the fund balance happened when there had not been significant increases in the City's principal sources of revenue: property taxes and state aid. It may be that the payment of back taxes, the sale of property seized for nonpayment of taxes, and increases in the proceeds from mortgage tax and sales tax account for the increase in the fund balance, but that analysis is a matter for another day.

Thinking about the mayor and a million dollars brought to mind another mayor and a million dollars. Back in 2001, Mayor Kenneth Cranna, who had had a brief acting career before he became mayor and who had friends and contacts in the world of show business and advertising, was instrumental in getting some Hudsonians featured in a TV commercial for the New York Lottery. The score for the commercial was the Barenaked Ladies song "If I Had a Million Dollars." 

A version of the commercial was made that was very Hudsoncentric and featured members of the Hudson Fire Department and included Mayor Cranna himself, sitting on a park bench in Washington Square, singing. Unfortunately, Gossips hasn't been able to track down that version. A more eclectic version of the one-minute spot, however, with people from all around New York, from a crossing guard in Buffalo to a doorman in Manhattan, can be viewed online by clicking here

The late, venerated Wilson "Harpie" Shea appears twice in this version of the ad, in front of 336 Warren Street, which was then the VFW Hall.

Also appearing are Alexys Wigley, behind the counter at Brandow's, the cafe and market that was located at 340 Warren Street, where Swoon is today . . . 

and the proprietor of a tattoo parlor then on North Seventh Street, not far from Park Falafel, where Thomas Harkins Plumbing & Heating is now.

Watch and enjoy glimpses of Hudson at the beginning of the new millennium.


  1. WE have millions of dollars ?

    and cross walks can't be painted ?
    the Ferry Street Bridge can't be repaired?
    the sewage / surface water system goes on the cheap?
    can't afford a dog park?

    blah blah blah

  2. While the City's fund balance was in the $3+m range 12/31/14, this isn't cash -- it's equity. And the only way you can monetize equity is to sell what has the value. In this case, the city itself. So that's a non-starter.

    Moreover, as Gossips intuits, the increase in receipts by the City over the period was due in large part to one-time events: in the wake of the settlement of the imbroglio surrounding the most recent reassessment of the entire inventory of real property in the city, the City collected a large amount of due but unpaid property taxes. Because the City had already paid the County and School District what should have been collected (as it was required to do by statute), the City balance reflects a windfall. But that's not going to happen again anytime soon and can't be relied on for budgetary purposes. Likewise, building permits were way up in the period. But this year they are way down. Also way down are receipts from parking (permits and tickets) and mortgage taxes.

    So, Vince, yes we do have millions of dollars -- but not much more than a couple at any given time (if that) and it all goes to paying for budgetary items (including, of course, the $875K that the Council has already tapped its cash balance (not fund balance, cash balance) for so far this year.

    But what's keeping the improvements you and most seek in the city from happening isn't money, it's leadership that is willing to do the planning and then execute on its plan. And that's essentially not existent among a majority of the Council and in the mayor's office.

  3. What portion of the fund is "reserved" and what portion "unreserved"?