Column: So, Moody’s walks into town hall…

TOWN: Welcome back to the Town Hall meeting room, Moody’s. It’s great to see you again. Remember last time you were here in 2011 and you upgraded our bond rating? That was wonderful. I hope you’re back to present similar news.

MOODY’S: Actually, Town, I’m sorry to report this, but I’m here to tell you that your bond rating is being downgraded. You will now pay higher interest rates if you need to go back and borrow funds any time in the near future.

TOWN: Well, I’m sorry to hear that. Have you not heard, though? Things are just starting to turn around! Before you make your final —

MOODY’S: The decision has already been made, Town. You remember the last time we were here. We warned you in our report that “continued use of reserves to fund operations” could make your bond rating go down. That appears to have happened.


TOWN: Let’s focus on the good things, though. We don’t get to see each other nearly enough to be all doom and gloom!

MOODY’S: I’m a credit agency.

TOWN: Never mind all that. While I have you, let me tell you about all the good things going on in town. Even credit agencies like good things, right? You’re sure to be impressed! You remember EPCAL, right? The Enterprise Park at Calverton? The old Grumman property? That’s going to be a huge economic engine for us, you know. Actually I don’t know if you can even fathom it. We have a 50-lot subdivision going on over there right now, we have the fast-track legislation in place, a big lease is in the works with an energy company for 60 acres over —

MOODY’S: If my notes are correct, the town was given that land by the federal government nearly 20 years ago, correct?

TOWN: Yeah, it’s really been mishandled, though. We like to call it “the place where bad ideas go to die.” Get it? They’re so bad, and they can’t even live there! And believe me, they really were that bad. We have some fresh ideas coming in there, don’t you worry.

TOWN RESIDENT: Excuse me, I’m very sorry to interrupt. Where can I find the restroom?

TOWN: Excuse me, Moody’s. I’m going to let this kind resident into the restroom real quick. You’ll like this one: We’re even cutting on custodial costs these days by keeping the Town Hall bathrooms locked. It’s worked wonders — keeps the riffraff out and employees at their desks, too! (PAUSE) I apologize about that. All in a day’s work, right? Worth it, though — so far, we’ve saved $2,000 closing those bathrooms and it’s been only four months. So where were we? Oh yes, EPCAL! You’re really going to want to reconsider that bond rating, I think, after I take you out for a spin around EPCAL. Wait until you see the potential there. We could just save the paperwork and keep this bond rating as is right now, don’t ya think?

MOODY’S: Well, as I told you, the decision has already been made. And you know, it’s not just a lack of reserves we’re concerned about.

TOWN: Reserves? No, don’t be concerned about that.

MOODY’S: The town has over $110 million in debt.

TOWN: You know what the problem is with that? With this Democrat in the White House, small business really hasn’t been able to thrive like it should be down —

MOODY’S: Actually, a sizeable tax base is one of the town’s strengths. We did warn you, though, that continued use of general fund reserves could be a problem.

TOWN: You know this was all done for years before me, right? It’s not like I invented taking money from there. That goes way back. Like way, waaaayyyyy back. I’ve actually reduced it substantially.

MOODY’S: We do see here that you have a balanced budget for this year, which is good to see.

TOWN: Oh, the balanced budget this year, of course! Yes, you know we’re on tra — well, we’ll be spending a lot less — well, we should be using less from reserves this year, that’s for sure. And it really does make me shudder to think about the path we were on before a few years ago. I’ll tell you, if you could have seen the shape this town was in when I took office in 2010 …

MOODY’S: We were here the year after. We upgraded your credit rating then. I thought you said you remembered that?

Pinciaro_Joe.jpgJoseph Pinciaro is the managing editor of the Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 354-8024.