TO: Deanne L. Flynn, City Chamberlain FROM: Mayor Robert G. Rolison SUBJECT: Veto Concerning Resolution (R-17-43) – Budget Transfer from Employee Healthcare to Transit Fund Subsidy
Pursuant to the authority vested in me by Article III, Section 3.02 of the Charter and 3.04 of the Administrative Code of the City of Poughkeepsie, I hereby veto Resolution R-17-43 which was adopted by the Common Council at a Special Meeting held on June 27, 2017. This veto is cast within ten days pursuant to Section 3.02 (f) of the City Charter.
On April 20, 2017 I vetoed a similar resolution which proposed to delay the implementation of this vital initiative. That Resolution sought a six-month extension of the City bus service, ostensibly so that the City could further study ways to make our own system efficient and sustainable. Today’s Resolution, cloaked as another attempt to extend funding for the buses, is really an attempt to derail the orderly transfer of the buses themselves to Dutchess County.
Because the buses were largely paid-for by the Federal government, they must continue to be used and they must be transferred to the County, or else the City will be required to pay back the remaining federal interest after depreciation is considered. I have been informed by our Finance Commissioner that this so-called “Federal recapture” could be more than $1.2 Million Dollars.
This Resolution confirms that some current members of our Common Council just do not care about what things cost, or what damage they do to the City’s hopes of regaining its financial footing. In fact, it’s clear they do not care what this Resolution signals to our stakeholders, grantors, or taxpayers.
I hope that this Veto also sends a strong message – a message that we will not continue down the same tried-and-failed paths of the past, that we recognize the strong support we have received and will need for some time, from the County, the State and – most importantly – from within our own community, and that in this battle between fiscal recklessness and good government we either all win – or we all lose.
Veto Concerning Resolution (R-17-28)
Budget Transfer from Employee Healthcare to Transit Fund Subsidy
Pursuant to the authority vested in me by Article III, Section 3.02 of the Charter and 3.04 of the Administrative Code of the City of Poughkeepsie, I hereby veto Resolution R-17-28 which was adopted by the Common Council at its regular meeting of April 19, 2017. This veto is cast within ten days pursuant to Section 3.02 (f) of the City Charter.
The debate in our City about the sustainability of our local transit system has gone on long enough. Throughout the years, as this issue has been talked about and then ignored – our general fund deficit has grown to a staggering $13 Million dollars, our bond rating has been lowered three consecutive times, our fiscal stress level has been noted by the State Comptroller, and we have been accepted by the State’s Financial Restructuring Board as one of only a few cities in New York state in need of extraordinary financial assistance.
Despite these simple, critical, and undeniable facts, a slim majority of this Council has voted to pass a resolution which sends the message that they do not care about these matters and would rather buy time to further study the transit situation.
Over more than five years, the stops and starts of this proposal have disrupted the ability of the City to well-manage its transit system. Compliance issues, a declining ridership, and an aging bus-fleet greeted me when I was sworn-in as your Mayor on January 1, 2016. Our City deserves better. Our residents deserve a sustainable transit system. Our taxpayers deserve to be able to depend on their elected leaders to make the difficult, yet fiscally responsible decisions.
While the City wrestled with this issue, mired in endless debate, our police officers went without a contract for years, essential maintenance and infrastructure work was deferred, the roof of City Hall began to leak, and vital positions like the City’s Development Director were eliminated. Parking lots were left unattended and deteriorating, and the number of blighted and vacant buildings in our small City skyrocketed.
The City has been urged to consolidate transit service with the County for a long time. From the Wendell Study of 2013, to the Fiscal Improvement Plan of 2016, experts have pointed to the overlap and redundancies between the City bus system and the County’s transit system and questioned why we wouldn’t take the obvious step of integration and expansion. What do we say to that very reasonable question, as we ask for millions in federal, state and county aid and millions more in grants and zero-interest loans to address everything from fire trucks to critical water and sewer infrastructure and the lengthy list of other needs in our City?
This is a non-partisan issue. Governor Cuomo has made shared governmental services a priority, and where those decisions can be made by local government they should be. County Executive Molinaro has led the charge in our region of the State, as the County’s shared services program has awarded millions in grants designed to maximize efficiencies and cut costs. With three consecutive annual County tax decreases – we agree with him.
This is a taxpayer issue. Each year our city subsidizes our transit system by anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000. That number is expected to rise as costs increase and ridership continues a steady decline. This annual subsidy does not include costs for new busses, a looming issue to evolve if the City were to stubbornly cling to its bus system much longer. We are the only city in the county which is served by two separate transit systems, and our taxpayers are the only taxpayers in the region paying for two transit systems. At some point in the long discussion, common sense and fiscal responsibility must prevail.
To be clear, this Resolution seeks to amend the budget a quarter-of-the-way through the year, without offering any plan for the future sustainability of the system. The majority says nothing about the fact that Moody’s issued a ‘credit positive’ about our budget this year, saying it was “a step towards structural balance”. The majority also dismisses the County’s willingness to help – it’s willingness to expand service on weekends, and its eagerness to adjust new routes to be as convenient for as many riders as possible. This is the same majority that doesn’t say a word about our debt, our bond rating, or the fact that for years the City struggled to pay its vendors and even its own school district.
The avoidance of a challenge is not a solution to that challenge.
Kicking the fiscal can down the road, while City and County busses continue to pass each other on Route 9, while our City taxpayers continue to pay for both systems, is simply irresponsible and therefore I cannot in good conscience permit this Resolution to take effect.
On November 6, 1917, women in New York State won the right to vote. The City of Poughkeepsie was the only community in Dutchess County to vote in favor of giving women the right to vote. To celebrate this special anniversary year, communities across the state are remembering and honoring the contributions women have made to their communities.
This exhibit, created by historian Holly Wahlberg, captures some of the stories of Poughkeepsie’s most remarkable women whose accomplishments and indomitable spirit continue to inspire us today.
City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison along with residents from Joseph’s House will launch the “7 Minute Clean Up Challenge” on Saturday, April 8th at 12:00 PM at the intersection of Washington St. and Fallkill Pl.
The 7 Minute Clean Up was the idea of WPDH 101.5 FM Radio personality Robyn Taylor, encouraging City of Poughkeepsie residents and business owners to commit to 7 minutes either weekly or daily to clean up in and around their homes and businesses throughout the City.
The press is invited to attend Saturday’s first 7 Minute Clean Up.
Mayor Rolison will be on WPDH tomorrow morning, April 7th at 8:00 am to discuss the 7 Minute Clean Up Challenge and his ideas to encourage others to participate.
Mayor Rolison announced today that the City of Poughkeepsie, after a thorough review of risk management and the adequacy of insurance protection, has transitioned to coverages offered by the New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal (NYMIR). The transition back to conventional coverage eliminates the City’s self-insurance retention of $1 Million, replacing it with a $500,000 deductible, increases the maximum total claim from $3 Million to $4 Million, and shifts risk away from the taxpayers of the City: “No plan for fiscal recovery makes sense if we do not simultaneously reduce risk and address operational weaknesses”, said Mayor Rolison. “When it comes to the financial condition of the City, we can all rest just a little easier knowing that we are also protecting the progress we’ve made thus far, while we continue to practice good governance and sound fiscal policies”, said the Mayor.
Under the terms of the transaction, NYMIR will now be responsible for legal defense and adjuster costs for claims made against the City. In addition NYMIR has agreed to commission property appraisals of all city-owned properties valued above $50,000, as the City’s Finance Department begins work later this year on a city-wide inventory of all the city’s assets. NYMIR will also work with the City on training and loss-prevention measures. “The successful completion of this transition addresses another of the chief recommendations of the City’s Strategic Fiscal Improvement Plan, which is the roadmap towards a full financial recovery for our City”, the Mayor said.
NYMIR insures more than 880 municipalities in New York State. These 880 members are also owners of NYMIR, which has a Governing Board of 13 elected and appointed leaders from around the State, and is endorsed by the three municipal organizations in the State, including the New York Conference of Mayors.
Risk management consulting services provided by: Rose & Kiernan, Inc. 60 Merritt Blvd., Fishkill, NY 12524
Mayor Rob Rolison’s 2017 State of the City Address, as delivered at the Cunneen Hackett Arts Center
February 22, 2017
I would argue that one of the most breathtaking scenes anywhere in the world is a sunrise over the City of Poughkeepsie.
The sun peeking over the hillside; the first light of the day glistening off the water; the warmth of the sun on your face as it continues to reveal its full majesty – illuminating a breathtaking view that appears to transcend for miles up and down the mighty Hudson.
And even on those foggy mornings, there is something near magical and inspiring as the sun’s powerful yet elegant rays cut through and lifts the haze off the river to reveal our new day….
One year ago, I stood before you to report that our City was one of transition.
A needed transition from a burdensome past into a feeling of hope and optimism for what the future could hold if we all worked together and helped to move our city in the right direction.
One year ago, I spoke of our plan to make Poughkeepsie: Safer, Cleaner and Stronger…
After one short year, I am pleased to announce to you that today the people of Poughkeepsie are safer; our city is Cleaner; and our future is stronger than ever.
Mayor Rob Rolison said today that the City of Poughkeepsie saw a steady decline in ridership of City buses again for 2016. Ridership and its associated revenues have been declining for several years, including a 121,124 decrease in ridership from 2012 to 2016 and this trend is continuing. Between 2015 and 2016 alone, ridership decreased by approximately 38,801 on the City’s transit system.
City’s taxpayers supplement the bus service by well over a quarter of a million annually. Given our fiscal situation, the City should not continue to subsidize the City’s transit system when a better option is available. The City’s 2017 budget continues operating subsidies for the first six months of this year at which time the City’s system will be absorbed by Dutchess County transit operations to create one unified system.
Dutchess County provides bus service within the City limits on many of the same routes. The County is better equipped to provide service within the City and to connect residents to other parts of the County. At a recent public meeting, residents asked for expanded service and better routes.
At the February 6th council meeting, a presentation and information session will take place on transfer of service. Combining these two systems is the clear choice. City residents will be able to travel more efficiently throughout their own City earlier in the mornings and later at night.
“It is unfair to City taxpayers to continue to subsidize two separate transit systems when those buses pass each other on the same streets day after day. This new integrated system will provide better transportation options for our citizens. We need these improved efficiencies to ensure the growth and revitalization of the Queen City,” said Mayor Rob Rolison.
Pursuant to the authority vested in me by Article III, Section 3.02 of the Charter and 3.04 of the Administrative Code of the City of Poughkeepsie, I hereby line-item veto the following sections appearing as “Schedule A” attached to Resolution R-16-100 which was approved by the Common Council on December 8th, 2016. This Resolution was submitted to me by the Chamberlain on December 9, 2016 and my line-item VETOs are therefore cast within the ten (10) day time frame provided for by Section 3.02 (f) of the City Charter.
The 2017 proposed budget which I submitted to the Common Council is a product of input from our Fiscal Advisory Committee, Department Heads, the City’s financial advisors and the public. It was carefully crafted around recommendations of the Office of State Comptroller, and best practices in municipal finance. My budget reduced departmental income by 12.4%, in order to put estimated revenues in-line with our actual experience. As we all know, and as has been widely reported, the City over-estimated revenues significantly in prior years – that practice has contributed to our current general fund deficit.
On January 26, 2015 the Office of State Comptroller criticized the Common Council for including speculative revenue in its amended budget. Today, unfortunately, the Common Council’s budget amendments insert $570,045 more in speculative revenue. In addition, the Council has not adopted all of the legislation necessary to legally collect this projected revenue in advance of adopting these budget amendments. It is not a fiscally sound practice to build revenue into our budget for which there has not yet been any enabling legislation adopted.
It is for this same reason that I must veto the following budget amendments:
01.22.9901.7906- Increase bus fare ($47,750)
The Common Council proposed to reduce the tax levy by less than $50,000 by increasing bus fares across the board by $0.50. The result is that the bus riders, mostly seniors and students, will be subsidizing an already inefficient bus system. The Common Council has taken no action to ensure that the City bus system will become self-sufficient, or at least more efficient. Economic development of the downtown core, which is the commercial City center, is dependent upon a strong efficient public transportation system. In order to accomplish this goal, the City must move toward a unified bus system with our partner, the County. The City is not in a position to accomplish this necessary economic goal, and continuing the status quo is no longer an option. Our federal, state and local partners agree, and have significantly invested in the City’s goal of developing a unified bus system with the County. The taxpayers of this City should not be forced to subsidize an ineffective City transit system, at the same time, while subsidizing a county system. We are currently the only municipality in Dutchess County supporting two systems and continuing this is not an option.
01.11.2555- Increase building fees ($250,000)
At a time when we are actively engaged in a campaign to encourage development and investment in our City, the Common Council budget amendments included $250,000 in revenue from increased building department fees. The increase in fees will deter those looking to invest their time and money into our neighborhoods and commercial corridors. This investment is vital to achieving safer neighborhoods, a revitalized downtown and will benefit the entire City.
01.06.2502- Increase taxi cab rates ($20,045)
Revenue is also scheduled to be raised by nearly tripling the registration fee for a taxi cab. This is at a time where the City is undergoing a complete revamp of our taxi code with our partners, the Town of Poughkeepsie and the County. It would be prudent to wait and roll out all updated licensing regulations at the same time. While an increase to the taxi registration may be warranted, there is no data or analysis to support tripling the fee. This fee increase will be nearly $300 more than Westchester County charges to register a taxi. Cab companies will no doubt look to pass these increased fees onto the customer. Once again, the Common Council budget amendments would be felt most in the pockets of our citizenry.
01.09.2609- Increase parking fines
While we can speculate as to the revenue this increase in fines might yield, it is obviously prudent to have least one year of actual and proven revenue before building this into our budget. The Council significantly increased the fines well above what staff recommended. Again, we simply cannot afford to guess when it comes to our budget process and the revenue that is built into it
Decrease upper management salary by 1.5%
The amended budget reduces salary increases for upper management employees from 3% to 1.5%. This salary increase is provided for in the management benefit agreement, and is tied to the settlement of union contracts so as to not make management raises political. It also ensures that management employees who are not represented by a union maintain comparable salaries which do not create a salary disparity. The City must continue to make these positions non-political and tying salary increases to an independent measure achieves this goal.
01.01.1010.7166- Increase Common Council health care reimbursement ($16,148)
I must also exercise my right to line item veto the Common Councils increase in their health care reimbursement.
My proposed budget decreased the health insurance buy-out to $2,500 for management and all elected officials. This was in-line with the new collective bargaining agreement with the police department; an agreement which the council approved. The Common Council has increased their own buy-out to $4,500. This decision is fiscally irresponsible and sends a message that part time council members feel they are entitled to special benefits above and beyond that which our full time City employees receive.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Common Council who worked alongside the administration during a very difficult budget process. We have been working together since the first of the year on improving this City. I realize we face a great challenge. I realize that while we have had differences of opinion, we share the same vision for this City. Now is the time we must come together to support the tough choices that are necessary to put this City on a path to fiscal stability.