Housing authority approves $2.3M budget

GLOVERSVILLE — The Gloversville Housing Authority Board of Commissioners has unanimously approved a $2.34 million operating budget for fiscal year 2019.

The budget, approved during Tuesday’s board meeting, features an estimated $1.49 million in operating revenue and $738,527 in anticipated contributions from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, resulting in a deficit of $111,474.

The budgeted deficit will be covered with provisions from the GHA’s reserve fund, which currently sits at $1.89 million. The reserve fund is expected to be at $1.78 million at the end of the 2019 fiscal year.

Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman John Poling, who also chairs the finance committee, delivered key budget figures during the meeting and noted that the budgeted deficit is below the $327,870 deficit the authority carried in this fiscal year’s $2.5 million budget.

“That is really coming down,” Poling said.

The most sizable budget reductions were made to administrative expenses which are projected for a $123,979 decrease over the current year to $660,111 in 2019 and tenant services expenses which are due to decrease by $9,508 to $49,895.

The reduced expenditures come from the administrative salary, legal expense and tenant service salary budget line items.

In recent years, the authority’s legal expenses have grown due in part to allegations made in 2017 that former executive director Timothy Mattice told employees to perform work for a nonprofit he headed and on the home of a former board chairman.

Mattice and former tenant relations assistant Sheri McCloskey were placed on paid administrative leave in July 2017, in relation to the allegations and statements from employees that the pair retaliated against them after they reported the situation to the Board of Commissioners in January 2017.

The board approved settlement agreements and parted ways with Mattice in September 2017 and with McCloskey in June.

The GHA is currently the subject of a federal lawsuit filed on April 3 by current and former employees stemming from the allegations. Mattice and McCloskey are also named in the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages and an award for attorney’s fees against all three defendants. Additionally, they are requesting punitive damages from Mattice and McCloskey.

The GHA is expressly excluded from the request for punitive damages in the lawsuit.

Legal expenses for the current fiscal year amounted to $124,500. The 2019 operating budget includes $57,000 for legal expenses.

Current GHA Executive Director Heather Reynolds noted Thursday that she could not discuss the authority’s legal actions, but said she is hopeful that the legal fees will be reduced in the next fiscal year.

For the authority’s first budget since Reynolds stepped into her position on Feb. 1, she said she wanted to focus on accurately estimating expenses and revenues based on past years.

“We budgeted accordingly to try to incorporate everything,” Reynolds said.

The budget includes projected increases to accounting fees, auditing fees, management fees per HUD and insurance amounting to a combined increase of $29,121 over the current fiscal year.

“We do have expenses that go up on an average,” Reynolds said.

Additionally, the budget includes increases for staff training and related travel to $3,000 each, a combined increase of $2,130, which Reynolds views as a positive development for employees and the authority.

The budget also includes a $9,800 increase in anticipated collection losses, to $19,800.

“We’re hoping to come in at $10,000, but we just don’t know what that next year is going to be,” Reynolds said. “We don’t know what we’re going to have and we need to make sure that we’re covering it in the budget.”

For future budgets, Reynolds said she wants to focus on decreasing the budgeted deficit, hoping to eliminate planned deficits within a few years, although she noted that housing comes with some uncertainty.

“You’re always going to have things that come up,” Reynolds said.

To maintain revenue levels, the GHA will concentrate on retaining tenants by maintaining apartments and implementing projects using the $582,817 the authority received from HUD’s Capital Fund Program.

“Those are things that are important, making sure that we’re keeping the apartments the way that they should be so that tenants want to live here,” Reynolds said. “The best way to make sure that your income is at full capacity is to make sure that we’re fully rented.”

During Tuesday’s meeting Reynolds announced that the authority was at 100 percent occupancy for the month of August, thanking staff members for their work in reaching that number.

The GHA is currently making plans for the five year CFP award that was received in 2018, receiving input from the Resident Advisory Board for suggested improvements.

Reynolds said she plans to concentrate on safety related projects first, but making the authority’s buildings feel like home is also a priority.

“We want to try to do something for the tenants as well,” Reynolds said. “We’re starting to get their ideas together to incorporate them into the five year plan.”

Reynolds noted that the CFP award is separate from the GHA’s operating budget.

Overall, Reynolds said she is comfortable with the budget and voiced her appreciation for GHA staff and board members for their contributions.

“We’re all consciously trying to make an effort to improve and make sure GHA stays within budget guidelines,” Reynolds said. “Everybody’s been putting in time and effort to try to make everything positive and to go in the right direction.”