Here is the next edition of Speaking French, the Mayor's Update.
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City Council Updates from Mayor Douglas French
2013 Budget Approval Set for December 19th
The City has again delivered a solid budget that keeps taxes low and continues to deliver the same level of services. No small feat when for years the economy continues to lag and Mother Nature repeatedly shows herself. The revised tax rate increase is proposed at 2.7% with a property tax levy of $20.5M and an overall City expense budget of $31.7M. The tax levy is well under the New York State property tax cap. The increase is roughly $86 to the average home in Rye or $148.91 per $1,000 of assessed value.
The latest changes included the addition of two school crossing guards and a small increase to the Rye Free Reading Room as part of the City’s annual funding. Most other budget line items are holding flat. This is a solid budget when compared against other municipalities and when compared to the financial trend the City had been heading. During the period of 1999 to 2009 when government grants were plentiful and City property values were growing rapidly, property taxes still rose 6.3% on average per year or an increase in the property tax levy of $1M per year for 10 years. There has been a renewed focus on holding the line on spending the last few years. During the period of 2010 through the proposed budget of 2013, the property tax increases have been on average just 2% per year or a total property tax levy increase of just $1.1M during the entire 4-year period – a time when property values decreased in consecutive years and governmental assistance dried up. This is also impressive when the impact of employee costs continues to dramatically shift the expense pie. 10 years ago in 2002, $3.1M was spent on employee benefits and that was 32% of salaries and wages and about 15% of the City’s overall annual expenditures. Today, that number is $8.8M or 72% of salaries and wages or 27% of the City’s annual budget. The Council will vote on the 2013 Rye City budget at its next and last public hearing on December 19th.
City of Rye 4-Year Planning
The City has actively engaged its Citizen’s Finance Committee the last few years to look at financial and operational issues and make recommendations for the City to consider for its long-term financial sustainability. Last week the Committee presented an initial draft of their findings which showed that the City with all things being equal and trends continuing as they are in revenues and expenses, that by 2016, the City could be running at an annual operating deficit of $2.4M on a roughly $33M budget. While assumptions can vary, it is a stark reality that although the City has done an excellent job at managing through the economic downturn, we need to continue to look at all options in how the City operates. The Council will be discussing and reviewing analysis and recommendations with staff and the Citizen’s Finance Committee throughout 2013.
Support for Sustainable Playland
Years ago when the County first proposed putting together a request for proposal (RFP) to “reinvent Playland”, I put together a Playland Strategic Committee to make recommendations to the City in what Rye and Westchester residents would like to see at Playland. They came back with a number of core values that in turn the County highlighted in the RFP that ultimately went out. Those values included the importance of financial sustainability for the park, continued open access, historical preservation, environmental preservation, and more. The County was a great partner in listening to the concerns of Rye as the host community to Playland. As I go around Rye and Westchester, many people are very excited about the opportunities the Sustainable Playland proposal can bring to our community. At the next meeting of the Council, we will propose a resolution in support of the County’s decision on the agreement with Sustainable Playland.
Rye Golf Club
The Council’s investigation of the Club Manager is ongoing and we will follow any findings wherever they lead. The matter is very serious that requires proper due diligence and we hope to inform the public of the status of the investigation as quickly as possible.