Here is the next edition of Speaking French, the Mayor's Update.
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City Council Updates from Mayor Douglas French
2011 Financial Performance
While the final year-end financials are still being prepared and will be presented by the City's auditor at the May 23rd meeting of the Council, the initial projections look promising. During a time when governments at all levels are grappling with rising costs and drops in revenue, the City's costs were $500,000 below budget and revenues were $700,000 above budget for a net gain of $1.2M. This is good news as the City's undesignated fund balance is projected to be at $3.8M or 12% of our annual operating budget. After several years of a rapidly declining fund balance, the City has been able to stem that trend the last two years in 2010 and 2011. Having a healthy fund balance is good for the City's financial position and strengthens the City's AAA rating. Restoring the City's financial outlook was a key priority and the results speak for themselves.
1037 Boston Post Road Decision
The Council is to hold a special meeting on April 25th on a vote to authorize the first step of a potential sale of the property. The City purchased the property in 2006 for $5M (not including future lease payments that were offset) on the property which was appraised at $4.5M at the time, and a balloon payment that was due for the full amount in 2010 – but no money was ever put aside to pay for the building. In 2010 the City paid off the building. Here is what I wrote 2 years ago in this column as the City began to look at long-term options: "One option discussed is to address the City's need for a larger court house and police facility by splitting the two and putting the court at 1037, however, the City would lose ongoing property tax revenue and the cost for transformation may be extremely high. Selling the property for commercial use is another option, but commercial rates are low and could result in a substantial loss to the City. Residential use is the final option for co-ops or rentals in the downtown area and may prove to increase the potential value. Any option, however, would need to include a shared municipal parking scenario. This is the beginning of a long planning process and we currently have a valued tenant relationship, but it is important we begin to review our options and share them with you." Two years later, the City has gone through an exhaustive planning process and explored these options with experts in the real estate market, City staff, the Planning Commission and the public. The action before the Council is to authorize the sale of the property to the current tenant with the terms being presented at press time.
Joint Resolution for Mandate Relief by the City and School District
At our joint meeting on April 21st, the Rye City Board of Education, Mayor and Council passed a joint resolution for meaningful mandate relief to be enacted by the New York State government. Specific issues for change included: Suspending state statutes such as the Triborough Amendment that would immediately improve the ability of the school district and city to control costs by improving the conduct of local collective bargaining by incentivizing negotiations that are more responsive to current economic conditions, the suspension of the Wicks Law which would also provide immediate savings in the cost of capital improvements by reducing the requirements for multiple contractors on construction projects, and limiting the costs of the public employee pension contributions that are increasing at a rate that is unsustainable with the current exclusion language in the tax cap levy, and should be limited so that the state-mandated employer contribution rates are capped at the same 2% growth rate increase as is allowed under the current tax cap.
Appointment Process for City Council Vacancy
Contact me or one of the Council members if you are interested in being considered for the vacancy on the Rye City Council. Based on our charter, the Council will fill the vacancy for the balance of the year with a separate election to be held in November of 2012 to complete the term which expires December of 2013. The Council will make the appointment at our June 13th meeting, and I will ask those that are interested to address the Council and public at our May 23rd meeting.
Building Permit 40 years Later
On personal note as it drew some Council attention, I received a retroactive building permit for my rental property on work that was done by the previous owner some 40 years ago. There was no illegal construction at the property as deemed by the building inspector, but this is an issue many residents face when properties are put up for sale and proper due diligence by the homeowner/buyer, legal community, real estate community and the City Building Department is required.