Here is the next edition of Speaking French, the Mayor's November Update.
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Rye City Council Updates from Mayor Douglas French
Rye City Budget 2012: Now It's Time to Hear from You
Since 2009 residents have continued to call for property tax relief. The submission of the City Manager's Budget for 2012 this week will once again call on the City Council to make very tough decisions that balance the scope of the current government service footprint vs. the desires of the community for traditional programs and services. Public workshops are scheduled for 8 pm on November 14th, 16th, and 30th as well as a Public Hearing on the budget on December 7th. The Citizens Finance Committee will present their opinion at the regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council on November 16th. Final adoption will be voted on by the Council on December 21st. At this time, the proposed budget to be deliberated will most likely be over the New York State tax cap, as economic conditions continue to affect the City's options. Prior to the budget presentation, on the revenue side, revenue from interest income, sales tax, and mortgage tax is down $2M since 2007. The undesignated fund balance is at 10%, but only roughly $1.5M above its chartered minimum. The direct bonding authority of the Council is at its maximum which is being used to pay for bonded projects approved years earlier. Tax assessments are down slightly. On the expense side, while overall costs have been held flat at 2009 levels in 2010 and 2011, the make-up of the costs continue to shift dramatically as pension and healthcare costs are again up by double-digits. Now it's your turn – it is time for your voice to be heard as the Council will be making financial and operational decisions as to what capital improvements can be funded, how to balance basic service levels, and where to identify new sources of funding.
Fire Department Organization
Many residents do not know how the Rye Fire Department is organized. The paid firefighters, 17 of them, report into the City Manager while the volunteer organization to include the Fire Chiefs and volunteer firefighters reports into a separate body, the Board of Fire Wardens. With the pending retirement of the Fire inspector, the City is taking the opportunity to review the organizational structure. Discussions have taken place with the paid personnel, Board of Wardens, Fire Chiefs, and volunteers and will continue through the budget process. If changes are made in the administrative structure, a change in the City Charter would be required.
Highland Hall Lawsuit
The Council took action in defense of a claim filed by tenants of Highland Hall. The City as one of four defendants that included Westchester County and New York State were served this week from tenants of the Highland Hall apartments. They are seeking injunctive relief to mitigate the effects of an oil spill on site during tropical storm Irene. This would include an independent consultant to test the air quality to confirm that the units are safe, to continue to maintain relocation expenses, and to pay for legal fees. State and County Health officials have cleared the building for tenants to return.
Flood Mitigation Plan
As part of the City's flood plan, the Council adopted a measure this week putting the highest priority on flood prevention and stormwater impacts by urging all Boards, Commissions, Departments and residents to scrutinize the consequences of decisions and land-use applications that may exacerbate flooding in the City. As part of the resolution, the Council formulated a permanent Flood-action committee to advise the Council on flooding and flood-related activities in and around Rye. On the status of the Bowman Avenue Sluice Gate project that will help regulate water-flow down the Blind Brook, the Town/Village of Harrison has asked to comment on the application that is before the Village of Rye Brook.
Winter Access to Oakland Beach
The Council is working with the Rye Town Park Commission to allow for pedestrian access only (no dogs) to Oakland Beach during the off-season winter months. Beach access has been closed since 2008 with one exception; however, based on your feedback and the community need, the City is looking to take over responsibility to administer access during this time.