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Home Government Speaking French: Rye Mayor's City Council Update

Speaking French: Rye Mayor’s City Council Update

The following is a Rye City Council update from Mayor Doug French

From the desk of Mayor Douglas French


April 26, 2011

Joint Resolution on NYS Tax Cap and Unfunded Mandate Relief Reform
The Rye City School District and the City of Rye have entered into a joint resolution strongly urging the New York State Assembly to reject the property tax cap approved by the New York State Senate and that the establishment of any tax cap follow the reformation of current unfunded mandates, the restructuring of public pension benefits and the collective bargaining process in order to ensure that our school district and municipality do not suffer the undue and unwanted cuts in services, programs and staffing. The resolution demonstrated solidarity between both bodies in a non-partisan statement.

Bringing Friends Back to the Meeting House
There is a renewed community spirit taking place at the end of Milton Road with the Friends Meeting House where a public-private partnership between the City and the Committee to Save the Bird Homestead (CSBH) have come together to rehabilitate the facility after nearly 10 years of being dormant. The Council got an update last week on plans to preserve a piece of Rye's history paid for by a grant and a matching private donation totaling $100,000. Neighbors and community groups in coordination with CSBH are working together to make the facility operational by the fall. The plans have the support of the Landmarks Committee and the Historical Society.

Orange Barrels a Little Longer on Purchase Street
The ugly orange safety barrels downtown that coincide with the temporary stop signs are starting to draw the ire of many – but it will be a little bit longer until the project is completed. At the most recent council meeting, the City Planner reviewed the project scope. The stop signs have proven to be an effective pedestrian safety, traffic flow and cost-effective measure, but construction to make them permanent will start in late July in order to keep disruption in downtown to a minimum. In addition, parking spots will be marked to identify parking stalls and improve traffic flow. Other elements of the project include curb extensions and additional sidewalk space, landscaping and lighting. The estimated cost is $100,000 and less than the budgeted amount.

Freedom of Information Law
As part of the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), the City is reviewing how to make FOIL requests easier for the public to request information and also easier for staff to transact. The City gets about 100 requests per year — the majority of which are labor intensive. The City is incorporating electronic technology and reviewing procedures to make the process more efficient.

2010 Census Results for Rye
The City grew for the first time in 40 years. Until the 2010 report when the City grew 5% to 15,720 residents, the last time Rye showed growth was in the 1970 census when it grew at 11% and peaked at 15,869 residents. Since then, the population has declined or remained flat at around 15,000. However, the makeup of the 5% growth is consistent with what we have seen in our schools with increased youth (residents in the 18 years and older category had only a slight increase), and growth in the Hispanic population that has increased across Westchester.

Water Rate Increases for WJWW
While most Rye residents get their water from United Water, about 400 homes on the Mamaroneck border get water from Westchester Joint Water Works – a consortium owned and operated by three municipalities: Harrison, the Village of Mamaroneck, and the Town of Mamaroneck. All three municipalities share in the cost of the daily operations and of capital projects to include upgrades of the machinery that treats the water or changes to the booster pump stations that are required to keep the water flowing at the right pressure. WJWW buys its water from NYC and is expecting there will be another substantial increase this spring. For customers outside NYC, it might be 13% or higher. As part of the WJWW notification process, we have asked that it include a public session for Rye residents.

  1. Yeah, yeah “you can’t cap what you can’t control.” But in Rye I think you can control it because today in Rye, we no longer really have laws – only ‘guidelines.’ (And if you’re in the Rye political class you can do even better and get the guidelines waived – more on this soon.)

    So at RCSD why not just have them tell Albany where they can stick their so called “unfunded mandates,” not accept paying for them and take in stride any meritless inbound Albany lawsuits?

    Remember, over $6 million dollars in locally funded legal fees vaporized in a recent battle with an institution directly serving our senior citizens, so what’s a little more here among our local redistributors? And Mr. Cuomo will ultimately come down firmly on the NY taxpayer’s side, right? Yes, it’s provocative, but then so are the nation’s highest tax rates…and who got them there.

    “72% Say Taxpayers Not Getting Their Money’s Worth from Public Schools”


  2. Three thoughts, Ted.

    First, if you’ve got some hot news that’s Rye-specific, out with it. Your “teasers”, hints are not getting anyone interested.

    Second, if you think that the Osborn Home tax cert case was a waste of money, you either missed a chunk of information posted here, on myRye or you’re kidding yourself. The legal fees were significantly less than the taxes collected – until now and in the future. And those taxes would not be coming without our local gov’t contesting the case. So, to make it shore, the Osborn home is not a charity, is now paying the taxes that it owes, and is helping spread the local tax burden.

    Finally, if Rye residents were unsatisfied either with the level of local taxation or the quality of the schools, don’t you think they’d come out and vote against the budget, put up alternative candidates for the Board, etc? I’m a firm believer in our getting what we deserve. So, go on about the high rate of taxes for the schools (there are clear opportunities to cut, but that’s another post), but you might want to come up with a more effective strategy if you want something to change.

  3. Bob – the Osborn tax cert case was a TOTAL waste of money because a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) was never seriously attempted per multiple local sources. It was a straight eldercare bash session brought on by those who always carefully avoided the subject of the savings The Osborn has brought to Rye taxpayers vs. the Milton Road Senior Manor Care Facility we were close to building and maintaining on what is now non taxpaying Nursery Field. (Check in with Judge Carey and his workgroup on this ‘missing man’ PILOT.)

    Collected taxes and sunken legal fees are very different. One stays in the local community and is redistributed – the other exits it permanently. But maybe the former RCSB members who brought the suit without trying a PILOT approach would like to reimburse us all for those “gone” monies now? That would be a substantial community recovery we could pump immediately into the school system and The Osborn.

    Finally, I am not sure why you would dismiss locally stiffing unfunded mandates as an ineffective strategy. It’s not like we don’t have a community right to fight an increasingly criminally infected special interest state government, right? That’s what Mr. Cuomo asked for our help in doing, wasn’t it?

  4. Okay, one more time. While I was not even aware of Rye at the start of the Osborn case, I have been told by people I believe that there were honest efforts made to reach a deal – from the School District and City – but that the Osborn was never willing to settle. Of course, I can’t prove the above is true, but I can point to all of the efforts on the part of the Osborn home to drag out/increase the cost of the court case. A great example is the way the OH dragged their feet on making available info about their customers, their costs, etc. The money that was spent on legal fees could have been better spent on the schools, roads, etc., but he OH did not want that. Luckily this is all behind us now so your continued re-raking of the coals does nothing to materially affect the future.

    Local stiffing of unfunded mandates was something the school board considered. The first two issues that pop up with this approach are a.) legal costs associated with suit that could / would be brought by the state (given your position on the OH, I wonder if you’d support these legal fees); b.) the ability of the State to simply reduce the funds they send to the District. Not a lot of practical advantage to “stiffing unfunded mandates” – particularly when the largest of these is the retirement fund contributions.

  5. Thanks Bob – that’s good to know that the board at least considered rejecting the unfunded mandate expenditures. Now it should consider moving farther and stiff them as a tangible symbol of locally based citizen revolt. You don’t get anywhere sending letters and statements to Albany – they laugh at you as they plan their next campaign luncheon with their favorite special interest groups. After what the RCSD spent in legal fees on OH, it would be looking a small amount to challenge this unfunded mandate problem. Mr. Cuomo needs tangible examples of resistance – we should help him out.

    Yet your point on Albany taking deductions off the top of state funding flowing to Rye is well taken. Such a dependency gives them control over our affairs – which is never a good thing. But I’m sure similar arguments were made here in Rye by local loyalists to the British Crown who also taxed Rye citizens at ever higher confiscatory rates without functional local representation. Execution Rock off New Rochelle got its name from this historical period. And I’ll bet today’s Working Families Party and their primary funding source(s) know all about this kind of local lore and have adapted their modern tactics to chain homebuyers who hope to enter and exit the Rye market with a gain on sale to a hopeless future of supporting uncontrollably rising taxes.

  6. BZ:
    why do bother “on another planet” TEDC? TEDC should look at the Avon PILOT instigated by County
    to save jobs. City and school district is losing significant revenues versus assessed value. Someone should find out the sunset year on this PILOT.

  7. Dear Bob:

    Before addressing me publicly on this forum, please note that I am “garnet10580” and not “Garnet Graduate”. Attributing the opinions of “Garnet Graduate” to me is inappropriate.
    Thank you.



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