Archive for the "Budget" Category

Mayor Rolison Releases 2019 Preliminary Budget

BUDGET MESSAGE

October 15, 2018

Dear Honorable Members of the Common Council, and to our taxpayers and residents, to our local business owners and our non-profits, to our faith-based organizations and to all the stakeholders in the Great City of Poughkeepsie, GREETINGS:

Pursuant to Article XIV of the Administrative Code, I hereby submit the 2019 Preliminary Budget for the Common Council’s deliberation and action. With a proposed total appropriation of $90,532,226, and a General Fund appropriation of $52,193,673, this budget makes important investments in our City and continues our multi-year plan to stabilize our finances, improve our bond rating, and reduce our general fund deficit – all while staying under the tax cap for the second consecutive year.

As we enter the fourth quarter of 2018 and prepare for what we know will be an exciting time for Poughkeepsie in 2019, I want to thank you for your strong commitment to our community, and for all that each of you have contributed, and continue to contribute, to our City’s work. Some of the fruits of our labor are seen throughout the City every day, as we continue efforts to improve services, lower costs, and to be more responsive to the needs of our residents. The full sense, however, of how we’re doing and where we’re going, can be found within our annual budgets – this being the third I have submitted for our Council’s approval.

The steady elimination of our general fund deficit is, of course, a primary objective. Without a fund balance, that so-called ‘rainy day fund’, it is absolutely essential that we allocate resources in the most efficient manner possible, that we not budget phantom revenues, and that we accurately estimate our future expenses. This budget accomplishes all of that, while at the same time making necessary adjustments where last year’s estimates showed weakness. The best example of that is in our Sanitation Fund, where we are forced to slightly raise rates in 2019.

With twice weekly garbage pick-up, and once-weekly pick-up of recycling and yard debris, Poughkeepsie’s municipal sanitation service is one of the best, if not the best, in the State. Pricing is competitive with private haulers, and it is within our sanitation operation that we see the greatest number of compliments coming from the public. An increase of $50.00 per year for single-family homes, and $100.00 per year for two-family homes, combined with nominal increases in the other categories of service, is unfortunately necessary to keep pace with rising costs. Further, the general fund will subsidize sanitation in 2019 by $225,000 in order to minimize the rate increase caused by these rising costs. On a positive note, Dutchess County has agreed to fund a comprehensive study of our sanitation service, and so it is our hope that the need for general fund assistance will be temporary as we implement the efficiencies that study will reveal.

I am pleased to report that no increase in our water or sewer rates is necessary, and that the City’s new reservoir is scheduled to come on line before the New Year. This multi-million dollar project culminates a years-long plan to bring our water storage capability into the modern world, while also presenting a unique opportunity to re-purpose our existing underground cistern located atop College Hill Park.

Staying Under the Tax Cap, Strengthening Public Safety and Investing in Public Works & Infrastructure

The Homestead tax rate increases by $0.01 per $1000 of Assessed Value, from $13.29 to $13.30, an increase of 0.08%. The non-Homestead tax rate increases by $0.27 per $1000 of Assessed Value, from $17.72 to $17.99, an increase of 1.52%.

The overall tax levy increased from $23,625,583 to $24,057,546, an increase of 1.83 %.

We will spend more on public safety, and we will increase spending in our Department of Public Works for a second year in a row. These are quite clearly the two areas where our limited resources can have the greatest impact on our city – impact on our quality of life directly, but also as a magnet for smart growth and economic development that will drive increased property values, create more jobs, and attract more visitors to our City. There are more demands on local government than ever before, but it is also true that today local government is where we have the greatest opportunity to come together around shared goals and priorities. This budget is offered as rallying-point for that collaboration.

A Promising Year Ahead

Again this year we gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the State of New York’s Financial Restructuring Board, which awarded us $3 Million Dollars in support of various initiatives, from the rebirth of a strategic economic development effort, to the refurbishment of our parking system. Among other things, we will shortly be completing a major rehabilitation of downtown’s Financial Plaza Deck. We are implementing the recommendations of the recently completed parking study, for which we gratefully acknowledge the support of the Dutchess County Transportation Council, and work begins in 2019 on a major pedestrian safety project, funded by a $2.4 Million grant from the State of New York. The just-announced partnership of HealthQuest and Marist College to build a new medical school in the City, along with other exciting projects we must bring to fruition, are certain to make 2019 an extraordinary year for Poughkeepsie.

This budget sends a strong message to all who would invest in our City. We will be ready.

Thank you and God Bless the Great City of Poughkeepsie.

Robert G. Rolison
Mayor
Poughkeepsie, New York

Download: 2019 Preliminary Budget (.pdf)

Mayor Rolison Releases 2018 Preliminary Budget

BUDGET MESSAGE

October 16, 2017

Dear Honorable Members of the Common Council, and to our taxpayers and residents, to our local business owners and our non-profits, to our faith-based organizations and to all the stakeholders in the Great City of Poughkeepsie, GREETINGS:

Pursuant to Article XIV of the Administrative Code, I hereby submit the 2018 Preliminary Budget for the Common Council’s deliberation and action. With a proposed total appropriation of $84,527,923, and a General Fund appropriation of $49,620,223, this budget makes important investments in our City, positions us to improve services to our residents, and continues our multi-year plan to stabilize our finances, improve our bond rating, and pay-down our general fund deficit, all while staying under the tax cap.

Good budgeting is the cornerstone of good government. As I have said many times, the key to our being able to address important quality of life issues rests with good budgeting and fiscal responsibility. 2015, the year before I took office, saw a year-end deficit of $1.9 Million Dollars, which increased the overall general fund deficit to a staggering $13 Million. The City’s Bond Rating was poor, and the City’s outlook was classified as ‘negative’ by Moody’s Investors Service. We have reversed that negative trend. Moody’s now calls us “stable”, and the Office of the State Comptroller has classified our fiscal stress level as “moderate”.

When I ran for this Office – an effort I called “a campaign for our City” – I promised a major course correction. I promised to fully review the City’s financial situation, identify the most immediate problems, and prioritize a path forward that will serve as our roadmap for the years ahead. I am pleased to report that we have seen significant progress on the central issue of stabilizing our finances. Now, while we will remain ever-vigilant in our search for savings and efficiencies, this budget can begin the process of rebuilding core pieces of government which were dismantled during those down years – from Economic Development, to Parks and Recreation, from City Planning to training and development of our workforce.

Our 2018 budget stays under the New York State Tax Cap. 

A homestead rate of $13.29 and a non-homestead rate of $17.72 per $1,000 of assessed valuation is necessary to account for contractual and everyday increases in the cost of operations. This budget increases the tax levy by 1.80%, from $23,207,352 to $23,625,583. With a total appropriation of $84,527,923 and a General Fund appropriation of $49,620,223, an increase of $48,903 or 0.1%. While there continue to be upward pressures on costs which this budget must account for, the primary drivers of the General Fund appropriation change from last year are positive: the elimination of our transit service saved approximately $391,000, while our debt-service costs to the General Fund declined by $360,000.

The thrust of our fiscal plan for 2018 relies on efficiencies and reorganization that will allow us to invest in our City and to renew local government’s commitment to serving its citizens – to public safety, to cleaner streets, to better-maintained parks, and to simply being more responsive to the needs of our residents. We will invest in new police cars, we will upgrade essential fire apparatus, and we will make a significant investment in our Department of Public Works.

It is because our first budget in 2017 took-on the realities that came with severe fiscal stress that we can now pivot towards addressing the highly-visible and frustrating issues that affect the quality of life in our City. It is because we resolved long-standing collective bargaining issues in 2017 that we can now move forward more collaboratively with labor to address structural and organizational issues which still stand between us and a truly efficient government. It is because we worked to earn $3 Million Dollars in Special Assistance from the State’s Financial Restructuring Board, that we have opportunities heading into 2018 and beyond that have not existed for more than a decade. The point is that local government is important. Our choices do impact outcomes, and tomorrow’s results are written in the budgets we adopt today.

No Change to Water or Sanitation Rates – 10% Decrease to Sewer Rates

Earlier this month our Finance Committee completed a thorough review of our water, sewer and sanitation funds. The results of this review are encouraging – our Water and Sewer funds are in good shape, and while our Sanitation fund is running a small deficit, guidance is that it can be corrected by operational enhancements which improve efficiency and thereby reduce costs. Our 2018 Capital Plan includes the acquisition of a new garbage truck which is sorely needed and which will eliminate the City’s reliance on rental of equipment and will also lower maintenance costs.

Sewer rates for 2018 will be lowered by 10% to bring us in-line with actual and projected expenses, and we will be utilizing grant funds to undertake a review of our longer-term sewer infrastructure needs. In this I am guided by our Council’s Finance Committee, and I would like to thank Councilmen Lee Klein and Mike Young for their work on this and other matters that the Committee has undertaken.

Consolidation of the City’s Transit Service with Dutchess County

Change is usually challenging, and I think that if there were easy solutions others would have implemented them long ago. The transit debate did not only rage throughout 2017, it festered for more than eight years before I took office. It was time to put the matter to rest, multiple Councils having failed to address the structural and long-standing issue of sustainability in the face of declining ridership. At this moment, the City busses are housed at our DPW garage, while we await the Council’s authorization to transfer them to Dutchess County in accordance with the consolidation’s asset disposition plan. Despite the legislative gridlock on our Council with respect to the transfer of assets, the County began service within the City on July 1st, 2017 as planned. I, along with all those who realize you do not reject the good in an endless pursuit of the perfect, thank the County for stepping-in as City service ended. This budget does not account for between $1.6 and $1.9 Million Dollars in potential federal recapture costs arising under our Master Grant Agreement with the Federal Transit Administration. The fact that this remains unresolved lingers over all our taxpayers and city employees like a dark cloud.

Investing in Poughkeepsie’s Youth

The patch-work and poorly-funded way the City has administered its various youth sports programs will be replaced with a new system of grants and oversight, where our community organizations and non-profits which have long been involved in youth activities and sports, will now have an opportunity to win funding. Our renewed commitment doubles funding for these youth activities, expanding opportunities and leading to new and stronger programs. This grant program will be administered by a panel of volunteers from both within and outside City government. This is not a new experiment, by the way, the benefits of expanded youth programs are many, but suffice it to say that it’s past time we have the discussion about the need to do better when it comes to our sons and daughters.

A Renewed Commitment to our Department of Public Works

This budget provides for several new positions at DPW, including a new Assistant Superintendent, a part-time Parks and Recreation Coordinator, a second sanitation inspector, and staff which will allow us to add a weekend shift for the first time in memory. This will reduce overtime costs, but more than that, it will allow us to keep our City cleaner and be more responsive to the concerns of our residents. Adding resources is just one piece to the puzzle however. At the same time we must enforce our local laws, pursue illegal dumpers, those who post illegal advertising throughout our City, and other contributors to the blight which drags down our property values.

A Promising Year Ahead

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the State of New York’s Financial Restructuring Board, which awarded us up to $3 Million Dollars in support of various initiatives, from the rebirth of a strategic economic development effort, to the refurbishment of our parking system. Among other things, we are now able to restore the previously cut position of “City Planner”, we have already established a position of “Parking Coordinator”, and work has begun on the Financial Plaza Parking Deck in the heart of our downtown.

I take the responsibility of being your Mayor very seriously. Without a fund-balance, a so-called ‘rainy-day’ fund, it is essential we manage to the budgets we adopt. This is a well-balanced and achievable budget. It keeps us under the tax cap while at the same time allowing us to put additional resources where we know they are needed. It also sends a strong message that Poughkeepsie is getting its house in order. After all, it is our own investment in our City which will attract the investment of others.

Thank you and God Bless the Great City of Poughkeepsie.

Robert G. Rolison
Mayor
Poughkeepsie, New York

Download: 2018 Preliminary Budget (.pdf)

Mayor Rolison Releases 2017 Preliminary Budget

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Budget Message

October 14, 2016

Dear Honorable Members of the Common Council, and to our Taxpayers and residents, to our local business owners and our non-profits, to our faith-based organizations and to all the stakeholders in the Great City of Poughkeepsie, GREETINGS:

Pursuant to Article XIV of the Administrative Code, I hereby submit the 2017 Preliminary Budget for the Common Council’s deliberation and action. With a proposed total appropriation of $85,125,976, and a General Fund appropriation of $49,571,320, this budget addresses structural and long-standing fiscal problems – first by further trimming expenses and restructuring, secondly by adjusting unrealistic revenue lines that have been adopted in prior budgets, and then, as a necessary last resort, raising taxes. This budget places us on a multi-year path to financial recovery which will take time, careful planning, and extraordinary execution and implementation. We no longer have the option of passing on difficult choices, and we must now live within our means.

The First Nine Months.

In my first nine months in office we have performed an in-depth fiscal analysis. We have convened the City’s first “Fiscal Advisory Group”, which has met weekly over these months to dig deeply into every aspect of City finances. We have thoroughly reviewed, with the help of outside subject matter experts who either volunteered their time, or were grant-funded, the last eight years of financial records in order to fully understand what has led to our current, cumulative, fund-balance deficit of more than $12 Million Dollars. We have been accepted as a “client” of the State’s “Financial Restructuring Board”, which opens the doors to technical, advisory, and financial aid which we hope will play a pivotal role in our fiscal recovery. We have implemented a quarterly financial reporting mechanism, and plan to improve on that by switching to a monthly reporting system in the coming year. As the State Comptroller’s Office has opined, the failure of prior administrations to report to the Common Council regularly on the financial condition of our City has been one of the contributors to our present crisis. Another has been the repeated failure, over many years, to budget anticipated revenues accurately.

The Exhaustion of Our Fund Balance & the Financial Restructuring Board.

In the past Mayors have proposed, and the Common Councils have adopted, appropriations from fund-balance to mitigate projected budget gaps, and to reduce or eliminate potential tax increases. That is no longer possible because today our unassigned fund balance is an astounding $12.6 Million in the red. This is the calamity which we must face together and it is a burden our taxpayers cannot shoulder alone. In other words, because prior year’s budgets were unrealistic and failed to raise sufficient revenue to pay for City operations, we long ago exhausted our reserves – and yet the City continued to spend.

I am pleased to report to you today that we are continuing to work hand-in-hand with the State’s Financial Restructuring Board, and we are working toward realizing an aid package which will help stabilize our finances. This effort strategically targets cost-cutting initiatives which are beyond our sole ability to manage, such as shared services with our State or County partners, and it targets areas where – given help with infrastructure, technology, or personnel costs – we can leverage increases in non-tax revenue for the long term. I am confident that we will be granted the help we need – but the greatest challenge to any request for help is the need to demonstrate to others that we have, really, begun the process of governing for outcomes that are realistic and therefore achievable. This budget accomplishes that, and so it bolsters our call for help by telling our partners at the State, in County government, and indeed throughout the region that the City of Poughkeepsie has turned the corner and is on the road to a meaningful recovery.

A Necessary Tax Increase – No Increase to Water, Sewer or Sanitation

Quite clearly, previous budgets have been so far out of structural balance that even after cutting $1.7 Million from departmental requests, a sizeable deficit remains that needs to be filled through an unavoidable tax increase. A homestead rate of $13.0655 and a non-homestead rate of $16.5832 per $1,000 of assessed valuation is required to close our budget gap – even after trimming expenses by an additional $1.7 Million dollars, in order to adopt a balanced budget. This budget increases the tax levy by 16.51%, from $19,919,106 to $23,207,352, with a total appropriation of $85,125,976 and a General Fund appropriation of $49,571,320, an increase of $1,406,826, or 2.92% from the 2016 General Fund appropriation of $48,164,494.

Fortunately we are able to hold the line on all our user fees (water, sewer and sanitation) and no rate increases are proposed. We will work throughout the coming year to find further efficiencies and plan well for coming infrastructure costs, so that our residents do not see sudden and unexpected spikes of these fees in coming years.

Key Factors Driving the Budget.

Over the last six years the City, like all others, has experienced rising health care costs, and rising costs of required contributions to our pension fund. Other post-employment benefits which the City committed to years ago, continue to drive costs upward. Salary increases and employee benefits from collective bargaining agreements, which were previously negotiated and rising debt-service costs all are contributing factors as well. Even with historically low interest rates, more borrowing means higher overall debt-service cost. Next week I will submit to the Common Council a Resolution de-authorizing millions of dollars in previously approved debt-issuance, and I urge the Council to adopt that resolution swiftly. Moving forward, we will borrow only for approved and necessary capital projects, or to refinance or restructure existing debt on favorable terms. Debt management, like the budget itself, is an area vital to our hopeful future.

With a Little Help from our Friends.

We have strong support from our legislative partners. This partial list of new grants our City has received or will receive very soon is nearly $2 Million. It includes money to attack blight and vacant “zombie” properties and critical funds for new police and fire vehicles. This commitment to our recovery tells us what we need to know. It tells us we are not in this alone. It tells us that decision-makers around the State are gaining confidence in our City

  • Zombie Property oversight- $150,000- State of N.Y.
  • Fire Engine-   $500,000-      Sponsor: Assemblyman Skartados
  • Fire Ladder-   $500,000- Sponsor: Assemblyman Skartados
  • Park Improvements- $150,000- Sponsor: Senator Serino
  • 911 Dispatch Study- $75,000- Dutchess County Shared Services
  • DPW Staffing Study- $75,000- Dutchess County Shared Services
  • City Hall- Cooling Tower- Sponsor: Assemblyman Skartados
  • Police Vehicles- $150,000- Sponsor: Senator Serino
  • Police Vehicles- $125,000- Sponsor: Assemblyman Skartados
  • $300,000 SNUG, Anti-Gun Violence Initiative- Sponsor: Assemblyman Skartados
  • $130K Dutchess County for Finance Review
  • $50K Dyson Foundation

I thank all whose faith in our great city is so constant, and I thank all our citizens for their understanding the urgent need that we make these tough choices now, while we can.

More Work to be Done.

The partnership I have established with our Common Council since the first of the year is the type of partnership we need to meet these difficult challenges. I have said to the Common Council that even though I am delivering this preliminary budget, I am not really letting-go. I and my administration will continue to work with the Council as adjustments may be made which build on this preliminary plan.

There is good reason to see this budget as a turning point for our City: Property values, which declined by 20% between 2010 and 2016, have stabilized this year. Close to $1 Billion in new development is underway, including the $500 Million expansion of Vassar Brothers Medical Center. Here at City Hall work is underway on a pivotal change-effort that encompasses important components such as “shared services” with the County, increased grant-seeking efforts, and transit-system restructuring. In the new-year we will begin a comprehensive review of our Department of Public Works, we will restructure and centralize our parking administration function, and we will seek refunding opportunities on existing debt in order to lower our debt-service costs.

Recognizing the deficiencies of the past is the first step towards realizing our vision for the future. This budget is a course correction and the only way forward if our goal is renewed fiscal stability, the resolution of long-expired labor contracts, the attraction of new investment, and an increased level of inter-governmental support – all of which are within our grasp.

Thank you and God Bless the Great City of Poughkeepsie.

Robert G. Rolison
Mayor
Poughkeepsie, New York

Download: 2017 Preliminary Budget