This week we chatted with Schoharie Mayor Larry Caza about his efforts to improve Schoharie during his first year in office.
How would you rate your first full year as Mayor?
My first full year as Mayor, well, I certainly hoped I’d have a little more experience under my belt, before the Village was hit with a pandemic! (Even John Borst got to be here for awhile before we had Irene & Lee!) But there were quite a few really great moments that underscored just how wonderful our little Village is. Last year’s Memorial Day Parade, when I was asked to step in at the last minute and be the Emcee, what an Honor to pay tribute not only to our veterans but to the many service organizations which pay them tribute all year long; and the great School Boards and the fantastic members of all of the Fire Depts. That was a moment I truly enjoyed. When I performed my first wedding as the Mayor of the Village of Schoharie; I think I was more nervous than the bride & groom. It was yet another moment where I felt a deep sense of pride for the role I was allowed to play in their lives.
In the past year, we opened new restaurants and stores. We had a fantastic Lily Festival, (In the future, I intend that our Lily Fest will rival Rochester’s Lilac Festival. Just you wait!)
We transitioned from a Supt. of Public Works with 45 years on the job, Bill Shroh, to the excellent new Supt., Ken Bernhardt. And our Deputy Supt., Mike Kennedy, continues to be the smooth and steady hand keeping us going and sharing his own fantastic wealth of knowledge, along with Paul Liddle, another man with an incredible amount of experience and talent to share with the Village. Our crew keeps the Village running and, by default, makes the Mayor & Board look good. In my first full year as Mayor, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the way our Clerk/Treasurer Leslie Price, & our Deputy Clerk, Debby Byrne, keep so many moving objects all headed in the right direction, all of the time! There are so many projects to keep track of and residents that call with questions; I now more fully appreciate all the vast number of things that get done (pretty much behind the scenes) week in and week out.
A couple of key accomplishment include:
- Moving to have the County Board of Elections take over the Village Election cycles. This is not only means having our Elections occur in November, when the State and Federal Elections also happen, but that the cost and personnel are handled by the County and we no longer have that burden. Residents should be aware that, although the dates for petitions for signatures were put on hold because of the Covid-19 situation, we’ll have two trustee positions on the ballot this fall. Look for announcement on those in the near future.
- Moving to change the Village’s Fiscal year to match the calendar year, and to put us in-sync with the Town of Schoharie in that regard. We share the Cost of Fire Protection with the town and being in-sync with their budget year will help us both to align our budgets and cost structures more easily. This change did produce a one time, 7 month budget, which is currently running form June 1st 2020, until December 31st, 2020. When we get to January 2021, we’ll be putting out an Annual Budget on the true calendar cycle. However, we found that we could also offer residents the option to pay half of their annual tax bill in January and then the other half six months later and not have any interest or penalties. We hope this option will make it easier for everyone in the village to allot their funds and cover their tax bills with less of a “big hit” all at once.
What are Schoharie’s remaining challenges and how will you and the Trustees meet them?
Village challenges? Rebounding from the Covid Shutdown is the largest challenge I see and one which will take all of us to achieve. I was so proud and happy to see the multitude of “This Business is Open” signs sprout up everywhere in the village and in the county. What a great concept and concise way to say “Hey, we’re still here and we’re still in the fight!” I am so happy that we’ve reached Phase Three and will soon be in Phase Four. The Schoharie Joint Recreation Commission is planning on opening the community pool as soon as we’re able and we want our residents to know we’ll be doing everything we can to help keep everyone safe while providing the important swim lessons and swimming opportunities that our community so desperately will need this summer. Also, the village may be challenged with reduced operations funding from NYS this year. While the exact numbers are still unknown, it’s very likely we’ll have to use money from our fund balance to help cover any shortfalls in our budget.
How has Coronavirus affected the village’s operations?
The village’s operations have remained mostly the same; our municipal workers are all considered “essential.” We had to switch away from the public being allowed into the offices and attending meetings, that was rough. I’m glad that we have been able to get our board minutes available on our website and that we’ve had some coverage in the press. Interviews like this are a great means for the public to catch-up with things and the board and I really do appreciate this chance to speak with you and with them.
Where do you see future business development such as the Best House and Taylor Block?
I still have strong hope that the Parrott House’s new owners can pick up where they left off, when the pandemic shut things down and regain their momentum on getting their engineering and architectural plans solidified. I have a great deal of faith in how SEEC and its incredible Executive Director, Julie Pacatte, will keep shepherding the process and helping to move the restoration along. The village board enjoys a strong partnership with SEEC and we look forward to the Parrott House just being the first of many revitalization efforts to take told of our community.