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City to Permit Partial Payments on Real Estate Taxes; Amendment Moves to Common Council for Approval

City leaders have announced an initiative to amend the City’s Tax Code to permit partial payments on real estate taxes. Councilmembers Natasha Cherry (D-6th Ward) and Yvonne Flowers (I-5th Ward), both members of the City’s Finance Committee and sponsors of the legislation, worked with Republican Mayor Rob Rolison and his Administration in a bipartisan effort to bring relief to city taxpayers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Under current law taxpayers must pay the full amount on or before February 15 unless they elect, for a fee, to pay in four quarterly installments. Taxpayers who fall behind on quarterly payments, or did not elect the quarterly option prior to February 15, must pay the entire amount due including a penalty. The bipartisan amendment to the local tax code would permit partial payments to be made in any amount at any time throughout the year. The current penalty schedule would be replaced with a simple-interest provision fixed at one percent per month, assessed on the declining balance.

Under the proposed changes to the local tax code, taxpayers who have elected the quarterly option, and who face their next payment on May 15, could defer all or some of that payment at a cost of 1 percent per month charged only on the amount of the quarterly payment deferred. For taxpayers who did not elect the quarterly option and make their first payment on-time by February 15, the current tax code provides no option other than payment in full, and partial payments are not accepted by the city’s tax collector. This amendment to the tax code, if passed by the full Council, would permit all partial payments to be accepted, whenever they are made throughout the year.

Councilmember Cherry said: “This is a vitally important, common sense piece of legislation that provides flexibility to city property owners. Flexibility allows individuals to make decisions that best help them navigate this crisis, because everyone’s situation is not the same. We ask our landlords to work with their tenants during this difficult time, and this less rigid tax collection process is going to help make it easier for them to do so.”

Councilmember Flowers said: “Every property owner in the City who pays under the current quarterly system has a payment due on May 15th. Left unchanged, everyone who misses that payment would be required to pay the full tax and penalty, and our tax collector would be required to return all partial payments. This legislation will not only help hundreds of Poughkeepsie’s property owners, but it will also help thousands of Poughkeepsie residents who live in rented properties because owners may find it easier to defer rent payments until our local economy is reopened.”

Mayor Rolison said: “This is a well-crafted amendment that balances the city’s financial condition with the need to provide flexibility to our taxpayers. Not only will this legislation help individuals, it will help local businesses, many of which also pay property taxes and have not received promised help under the Federal Paycheck Protection Program. The current ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to tax collection, which requires the City to send back partial payments, is at odds with important goals we share as a community: preserving homeownership and housing affordability. The new approach will also help our senior citizen property owners, who may find it easier to pay monthly rather than quarterly.”

The Council is expected take up the matter at its next virtual meeting on May 4.

City of Poughkeepsie Names New Finance Commissioner to Succeed Brady

City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison announced today that Brian Martinez has been selected to succeed William Brady as the City’s Commissioner of Finance. Brady is retiring at the end of January.

Brady served in Mayor Rolison’s administration since 2016, the majority of that time as Finance Commissioner.

Image of William Brady and Brian Martinez
William Brady, at left, greets Brian Martinez in the Common Council Chambers at City Hall. Martinez has been selected to succeed Brady as the City’s Commissioner of Finance.

After Rob Rolison’s election as mayor, Brady was asked to serve on the city’s Fiscal Advisory Committee that played an integral role in getting the City’s finances in order and reducing the city’s general fund deficit.

During Brady’s tenure, the City saw its general fund deficit decline from $13.2 million to $7.1 million, as the City realized four consecutive years of strong fiscal management and budgetary controls.

Mayor Rolison said, “William Brady served this city with great distinction. He greatly aided the city’s ability to overcome a period of serious financial turbulence, and we are grateful for his work.”

“It was a pleasure working with Bill on the Finance Committee,” said Common Council member Natasha Cherry. “He is the only person I know who can smile while delivering a hard truth or a bottom line. I thank him for all that he has taught me around Finance and Budgeting, and I wish him well in his retirement.”

Martinez began his service at City Hall in 2019 as the Budget Director. He and his spouse, Elaine Woods-Martinez, have deep roots in New York and the Hudson Valley with now three generations of family on both sides residing locally, upstate and downstate. Martinez pursued a career as a Naval Officer, which was followed by his continued public service as a career senior manager in the federal civil service for The Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Martinez’ determined to “come back home” to New York and become residents of the City of Poughkeepsie. Martinez stated, “We are thrilled to be part of the community that is the City of Poughkeepsie. After attending a first ‘First Friday’ event a couple of years ago, we were determined to make the City of Poughkeepsie our next home. I look forward to being part of the City’s leadership team.”

Mayor Rolison said, “Having Brian Martinez take over will ensure a seamless transition, and we look forward to Brian working on behalf of the city to keep our finances stable.”

Martinez holds a PhD in Public Administration from Old Dominion University with an emphasis in public management and organizational change involving technology. He is a member of the Public Administration Honor Society, Pi Alpha Alpha and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. He holds a Master of Science in Finance and Management from Webster University and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP). His prior federal civil service positions include Deputy Director, Resources, Requirements and Analysis, Training Directorate of the Joint Staff. During his Naval service, he held various leadership and management roles in business cost estimating and financial management in organizations within the United States and abroad. He is a veteran of Gulf Wars I and II and the Global War on Terrorism. His public management experience also includes serving as a Neighborhood Conservation Chair in the City of Norfolk, Va. and non-profit experience on the Board of Directors for Angel Airlines.

City of Poughkeepsie Releases Audited Financial Statements for 2018 General Fund, Deficit Declined by More than $6 Million over Three Years

City of Poughkeepsie officials today released audited financial statements for 2018 reflecting a sharp decline in the City’s General Fund deficit, from approximately $13.2 million at the end of 2015 to approximately $7.1 million at the end of 2018. Auditors also found the City’s General Fund cash position has improved by $1.8 million since the end of 2017. The audit was conducted by RBT CPAs, LLP.

Mayor Rob Rolison said, “This is the third consecutive year the City has out-performed when it comes to the important function of managing to our revenue and expense projections. The City’s Deficit Reduction Plan is a three-pronged approach toward rebuilding our fund balance by unwinding inter-fund receivables and payables, limiting non-essential borrowings, and crafting realistic budgets each year.”

Auditors found that the City’s receivables, funds it is owed by others, increased year-over-year, and recommended that the City complete a comprehensive inventory of all its assets to ensure they are not being understated on its balance sheet.

City Administrator Marc Nelson said, “When Moody’s Investors Service removed the City’s negative outlook in July, 2017, they said that further bond rating increases could result from a declining deficit and improving liquidity. We’ve checked those boxes and many more. The City has established reserve accounts for snow removal emergencies, employee benefits and judgment and claims, it has reduced its self-insured retention from $1 million to $500,000,  closed its transit fund which had operated at a deficit for years, and built a multi-year record of successful and timely collective bargaining outcomes.”

Finance Commissioner William Brady said: “In addition to the very favorable audit findings, the City’s debt-service costs drop by more than $1 million next year. It would not be overstating things to say that we are witnessing one of the most remarkable turnarounds in a local government’s financial condition. Being a part of this work is the high-water point in my long career in public service.”

Read the full Audited Financial Statements Here:

About RBT CPAs, LLP

RBT CPAs, LLP has offices located at 11 Racquet Road, Newburgh, NY; 2678 South Road, Poughkeepsie, NY; and 51 Sullivan Street, Wurtsboro, NY.  RBT provides accounting, auditing, tax and business consulting services to clients in the greater Hudson Valley, as well as in other areas of New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey.

City of Poughkeepsie Books 2017 Surplus

City of Poughkeepsie Books 2017 Surplus

A 2017 Year-end Surplus in the City’s General Fund will reduce the City’s Deficit by $852,000

The City of Poughkeepsie announced today that it will realize a surplus in its General Fund for 2017 in the amount of $852,000. This second consecutive year of favorable financial results will further reduce the City’s deficit to $11,052,729.

Mayor Rolison said: “Strong fiscal management brings not only the reward of lowering our deficit, but it also attracts much-needed development to our City. It boosts the confidence that our stakeholders have in City government, which translates into more grants and stronger partnerships. We must smartly leverage opportunities when they come calling because the steps we take today assure our City’s successful future.”

City Administrator Marc Nelson said: “In 2017 the City adopted a Debt Management Policy, improved policies and procedures, and addressed a number of critical infrastructure projects that had been deferred for years due to fiscal constraints. Improving the responsiveness of local government requires that we provide the resources City departments need to accomplish their jobs. For two straight years the Mayor’s annual budget has found the right balance between fiscal restraint and necessary spending.”

The City faced a deficit of $13,061,925 in January of 2016.

In July, 2017 Moody’s Investors Service upgraded the City’s financial outlook from negative to stable.

City Adopts Formal Debt Management Policy: Tightens Policies & Procedures

Working with our financial advisors, Capital Markets Advisors, LLC., and finance consultants funded by a shared-services grant awarded to the City by Dutchess County in 2016, the Finance Department presented the Common Council with a new formal debt management policy which sets limitations on general fund borrowing, and identifies new benchmarks to strive for over the next several years, as the City works to address its negative fund balance. The Common Council adopted the new policy on October 16th, 2017.

Outgoing Commissioner of Finance, Marc Nelson, said: “I’d like to thank the Council for its favorable action, as well as the Finance Committee – Councilmen Lee Klein and Mike Young – for its work on this. The Constitutional Debt Limit applies to all New York municipalities, but the City of Poughkeepsie must do even more to ensure its debt-service costs decline. This policy outlines our plan to curtail borrowing, seek refunding opportunities in favorable markets, and improve the City’s bond rating”

Read the Debt Management plan here.

Audited Financial Statements for Fiscal Year 2016 Released: Surplus to go to Deficit Reduction

The City ended 2016 with a surplus of $874,000, which will be applied to reduce the cumulative general fund deficit. In addition, the City was able to pay-down $400,000 towards a deficit of $1.2 Million in its separate Transit Fund, reducing that deficit to approximately $800,000. The consolidation of the City’s bus system with Dutchess County Transit, which is projected to save taxpayers between $300,000 and $500,000 annually, will lead to the elimination of the Transit Fund as the remaining transit deficit is paid-down.

The favorable results in 2016 have reduced the general fund deficit to $11.9 Million. At its high, just before Mayor Rolison took office, it stood at $13.1 Million.

Late in 2016, as the 2017 budget was being crafted, the administration also made the decision to include a specific budgeted amount for deficit reduction, something which had never been done before. Although the amount, $225,000, was small in comparison to the deficit, it sent a strong message to City stakeholders and other interested parties that the City is serious about aggressively attacking the deficit.

At this point, as we enter the fourth quarter of 2017, management projects a 2017 surplus of about $569,000. That number is exclusive of the budgeted $225,000 which has already been earmarked to be applied against the deficit. While these are preliminary numbers, the City’s deficit could be reduced by a further $794,000 when the 2017 results are finalized.

City Receives High Marks for Final FTA Triennial Review of Transit Operations

The 2017 FTA Triennial Report, expected to be the City’s final compliance audit by FTA, was released on August 29th and may be viewed here. The most comprehensive of the FTA review processes, the Triennial Audit was last conducted in 2014.

For the years 2014-17 covered by this report, the FTA found no deficiencies in 16 of 17 categories. The lone finding was a weakness relating to the procurement of outside services insofar as there was no written policy on one minor section. Working with the FTA’s team, the Finance Department was able to address that issue before the Final Report was issued. Marc Nelson, Acting City Administrator said “This report is such a welcome acknowledgement of the real effort which was made by many city employees to maintain the highest level of transit service for our citizens during a very challenging period for the City. I would especially like to acknowledge our DPW and Transit staff, as well as Karen Sorrell – Deputy Commissioner of Finance – for their work throughout these years and for their professionalism during the review period itself.”