City Administrator

City of Poughkeepsie Drills Down on Remaining $7.1 Million General Fund Deficit

City of Poughkeepsie officials announced today that, despite budgetary pressures caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, efforts to reduce the city’s general fund deficit will continue throughout 2021.

 “There is funding designated in our budget next year for further work with our independent accounting consultant, RBT CPAs, LLP, which has been working with the City as the deficit has been reduced from its high-water mark of $13.2 million, to its current level of $7.l million,” said Mayor Rob Rolison.

The City adopted a comprehensive Debt Management plan in 2017 and also has sharply curtailed borrowing for the last five years. Debt service costs, the payments made by the City each year on its outstanding bonds, dropped by approximately $2.5 million in 2019 and are projected to drop by another $1 million annually, beginning in 2024.

“Declining debt service costs are taking pressure off the general fund, and careful budgeting every year has meant that the City has not added to the general fund’s deficit since Mayor Rolison took office in 2016,” said City Administrator Marc Nelson said.

The remaining $7.1 million general fund deficit is partly the result of inter-fund relationships among the City’s other funds: Water, sewer, capital projects and sanitation. In 2018, the City discontinued its transit operation and wound-down its transit fund. For years, the city’s transit fund had operated at a loss and had been subsidized by the general fund.

“Inter-fund transactions move assets between the City’s funds. These complex transactions, especially those that occurred years ago, need to be reviewed. Our continuing work with RBT CPAs, LLP will enable the City to research these old transactions and identify opportunities to reduce the remaining deficit,” said Finance Commissioner Dr. Brian Martinez.

“Over the past four years, the City made a concerted effort to address the General Fund deficit accumulation. Unwinding years of inter-fund transactions is not an easy task. We commend the administration for its efforts to fully understand the underlying causes and potential remedies for the City’s deficit,” RBT Partner Jennifer George said.

A copy of the city’s adopted debt management plan can be found here.

City Accepts $200,000 to Continue ‘Anti-blight’ Effort

At this week’s meeting, the City of Poughkeepsie Common Council unanimously agreed to accept $200,000 to continue funding the city’s “Anti-Blight” campaign. The money enables the city to bolster housing code enforcement, to track and monitor vacant properties, and to locate missing owners who have walked away from their properties.

The money comes from part of the state Attorney General’s $9 million in funding to combat so-called “zombie properties,” vacant or abandoned homes that are not maintained during what can be long foreclosure proceedings.

Mayor Rob Rolison created an Anti-Blight Task Force in 2018, which brings together internal and external stakeholders, including Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together Dutchess, and Hudson River Housing. Since its inception, the task force has addressed more than 100 vacant properties. The city had slightly more than 600 in 2018; that number is now slightly below 500.

 “We appreciate New York Attorney General Letitia James supporting the city’s ongoing efforts,” said Mayor Rolison.

“We are making a concerted, aggressive effort to address blight in the city,” said City Administrator Marc Nelson. “This grant not only continues prior funding from the Attorney General’s Office but increased it. We appreciate the strong vote of confidence in the work we are doing. The impact of anti-blight efforts extend well beyond individual properties, it is felt throughout the entire community.” 

The grant funds new software, which is giving the city a much better picture related to these properties, including public safety calls, building inspector reports, Department of Public Works cleanups, tax status, and more. Code enforcement procedures have been beefed up in the process.

Since adding two building code enforcement officers in the 2019 budget, the city has made significant increases in the collection of fines for violations. As a result, the city administration requested and received approval of a mid-year budget amendment providing an additional $100,000 to its Youth Activities & Opportunities Program. The awards assist local non-profit organizations by providing funding to support clubs and leagues as well as various summer and educational programs. The recent budget amendment makes available immediately to eligible organizations that provide positive, creative and healthy programs and activities for children.

Also has a result of the anti-blight initiative, the city has taken ownership of the former YMCA building on Montgomery Street. The building has been vacant since the YMCA closed its doors in 2009. The city has set a Sept. 5 deadline for applicants to submit their ideas for new uses for the site.