Moody’s Investors Service delivered some welcome news to the Village of Bayville on Feb. 12 — an upgrade from an A1 to Aa3, which is one step below the highest rating a municipality can receive. The report stated that the upgrade “reflects the village’s modestly sized tax base, strong socioeconomic indicators, and low debt and pension burdens.”
Moody also cited the village’s water fund as continuing “to have a deficit financial position.” Deputy Mayor Joe Russo said the report’s data was based on information from 2017. “Our water fund deficit was $211,000 in 2017, which is considered a negative,” he said. “As of January, we erased that.”
The upgrade was good news for Mayor Paul Rupp, who, along with his Revitalization Party, is committed to making Bayville fiscally sound. When Rupp and Trustees John Taylor, Tim Charon and Russo won in June 2014, Bayville was in financial trouble. Moody’s had deemed the village fiscally stressed that February.
Rupp said he was pleased with the new rating. “My administration has brought the village back on a solid fiscal foundation from being one of the worst,” he said, attributing the upgrade to “our hard work ethic,” adoption of “fiscal constraint and conservative budgeting practices.”
Russo agreed with Rupp. “Our fiscal prudence kept expenses down,” he said. “When we did need to do larger expenditures, we tried to do so through competitive and negotiated agreements.”
One practice that led to savings was the replacement of old equipment. “This reduced maintenance costs,” Russo said. “In the past four years we’ve brought in two or three dump trucks, a sander, recycling truck, garbage truck and street sweeper. Some of these were paid in part with grants.”
And purchases like that of the sweeper avoided hiring a private contractor, adding to more savings, he said.
Another decision, which he said has gone unnoticed, was hiring a new mechanic to replace the mechanic who retired. “We had a mechanic limited in ability to perform maintenance due to a disability,” Russo said. “When he retired, we hired someone who can do everything. We’re saving money with the new hire because we don’t have to go outside to get things done.”
Some longtime employees in village court and the Building Department retired too. They were replaced by tech-savvy employees at lower salaries, also a plus for the village.
Additionally, the Building Department has increased its revenues. “They’ve done so mostly by stricter enforcement,” Russo said. “There were a lot of cases where people replaced cesspools without taking out permits. Now they’re issued a notice of violation and if they still don’t get a permit, they pay a fine.”
Also, the beautification of the village, led by Rupp and the Beautification Committee, has increased property values. This may be bringing about more home expansions. “The quality-of-life improvements have translated into additional revenue for the Building Department,” Russo said.
In 2016, the village refinanced all of its outstanding debt. Taking advantage of lower interest rates was quite a benefit. “If you save $20,000 or $30,000 in interest over time, you spend less,” he said. “We chose to consolidate the debt into one package.” The debt will mature in 2023.
Trustee Bob DeNatale, a member of the TIP Party, won his seat last June. He said he is interested in obtaining some of the details that contributed to Bayville’s higher rating. “I’m thrilled to hear where it’s at, though,” DeNatale said. “It’s a compliment to the village and the administration of the village.”
Taylor attributed the higher rating in part to a plan that included anticipating unexpected liabilities. “The Army Corps of Engineers was a possible liability before” because of the potential cost of building a sea wall, he said. “We put it into our budget and paid it off. By dealing with it, we showed responsibility.”
Taylor added that a “lot of little things” were done. “We tightened our budget planning. There was a haphazard planning process in the past.”
The village also changed the way the Water Department was run, he said. “The Water Department was a mess,” he said. “How it was being managed needed tightening up. We replaced the supervisor and made it more accountable, and then took care of a lot of things that had been overlooked.”
Taylor said he attributed the new rating in large part to the new members of the board from his party. “We’ve been in for four years now,” he said. “I don’t think it would have happened without us going in and being fiscally responsible.”
Bob Nigro, a trustee from the TIP party who also won last June, said he plans to speak to Rupp. “It’s always good that sound fiscal management is recognized,” he said. “But I know little about the details.”
Everyone in village government is committed to the residents, Nigro said. “We make sure that the money the people of Bayville gives to us is spent wisely. This is good news and means there is sound management in the village.” And, he said, although trustees have their political differences, “We try to work together to do what’s best for Bayville.”
Charon said the new rating is “a great way to end a term of office. It’s important for the future of Bayville that things keep going this way.”
He is most proud of the village government’s “conservative fiscal management, which keeps costs down while maintaining what the village provides.”
Additionally, Charon said, “we beautified the village and raised taxes only minimally. This year we won’t be raising taxes at all.”