Mayor Rolison Releases 2020 Preliminary Budget
October 15, 2019
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 2020 Preliminary Budget for the Common Council’s deliberation and action. This budget builds on the strong progress we have made together over the last several years. It marks the third consecutive year we will remain under the N.Y.S. tax cap, and it continues our emphasis on fiscal responsibility, public safety, strategic planning and the quality of life issues that have a real impact on our community.
2020 Budget lowers tax rates, stays under the N.Y.S. Tax Cap.
No increase to Water, Sewer or Sanitation Rates.
Budgets always reflect our priorities and provide a roadmap for what the year ahead will look like, but this budget, in particular, also reflects the fruits of our labors. It’s no small feat for a City that just four short years ago faced a deficit in its General Fund of $13.2 Million, was seeking emergency aid from the State’s Financial Restructuring Board, and was behind with payments it owed to both the School District and the County, to come in under the N.Y.S. tax cap for a third consecutive year. As we have all worked together these last few years, it’s an accomplishment we can all be proud of. In fact, not only are we under the cap again this year, but we have now seen three consecutive years of surpluses in our general fund, and the fund balance deficit that stood at $13.2 Million when I became your Mayor, is now less than $8 Million.
As we regained control over runaway spending and poor revenue estimates of the past, we saw immediate effects in many areas of our local government. We restructured the Department of Public Works and with those savings were able to transition to a more agile operation that has our DPW team working throughout the city seven days a week. The improvement is noteworthy, not just because our City looks and feels cleaner, but because when problems are reported they are now being addressed much more swiftly. Hundreds of tree-stumps have been removed where years of poor tree maintenance had taken its toll. Today we are undertaking an important tree inventory throughout the City that is the first step in returning us to proactive management of this valuable natural resource. Our parks are cleaner and better-maintained than at any time in recent memory and as a result we have seen significant increases in their use by residents and visitors alike.
Our award-winning transit consolidation with Dutchess County in 2017 reduced pressure on the City’s General Fund and by so-doing, has allowed us to deal with the perennial increase in employee benefits that is caused by rising healthcare costs, while at the same time creating a more efficient transit system that includes later hours and Sunday service that could not have been offered by the City alone.
Our award-winning Police Retention Program in 2018 corrected a large imbalance between the wages of our officers and those offered by other regional cities and towns. It worked by eliminating funded-but-vacant positions and shifting those funds into more reasonable salaries for the men and women of our police force. The program resulted in a return to full strength, increasing the number of officers from a low of 79 to the 90 who today keep our city safe, and triggering our eligibility to tap into a Federal Cops Grant which will allow us to add up to five new officers next year. Strategic planning, a collaborative approach to collective bargaining, and more efficient management of resources is not only reducing crime in our city but it has allowed us to begin to rebuild our community policing unit, add a school resource officer, and to move forward with our plan to implement body-worn-camera technology.
In 2017 the City adopted its first comprehensive Debt Management Plan. The policy document set limits on municipal borrowing that are tied to meaningful benchmarks. Facing a general fund deficit of $13.2 Million as of the end of 2015, we knew that adopting structurally balanced budgets was only one piece of the puzzle. We also needed to manage to those budgets effectively throughout the year, and we needed to restrict our borrowings to all but the most essential purposes. Today, just two years later, I present to our Common Council a proposed spending plan that recognizes a decrease in our debt service costs of more than $1 Million Dollars. This sharp decline in our debt service costs, helped by a bond refunding transaction we accomplished this year, is something we can all be very proud of.
Our 2020 spending plan lowers the tax rate – homestead drops from $13.30 to $13.24 per $1,000 of assessed value, a decrease of 0.47%, while non-homestead drops from $17.99 to $17.16 per $1,000 of assessed value, or 4.61%. The city’s overall tax levy increases from $24,057,546 to $24,495,525, an increase of 1.82%.
This is the fourth annual budget I have submitted to the Common Council for approval. This budget, like my previous budgets, supports our primary objective of making our City safer, cleaner, and stronger. It builds on a solid record of fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction, while at the same time improving local government’s service to its citizens. As I have said many times, good budgeting is the cornerstone of good government, and good government must be our common goal.
Thank you and God Bless the Great City of Poughkeepsie.
Robert G. Rolison