Here is the next edition of Speaking French, the Mayor's Update.
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City Council Updates from Mayor Douglas French
A Record of Solving Problems
As the City Council discusses filling the vacancy of Suzanna Keith at our June 13th meeting, I want to take a look back at what has been accomplished in just 30 short months of her time on the Council. We came in together to drive change for Rye's future. The results speak for themselves. Here are the highlights:
- Held the line on City Spending. In 2008 actual City spending on general fund operations was $31.1M. The adopted budget in 2012 is $29.9M.
- Stopped the Growth Trajectory on Property Taxes. In 2000 the City property tax levy was $10M. In 2009 it was $19.1M (a 10% increase per year from original base). The 2012 adopted levy is $19.9M (a 1.6% increase per year from original base).
- Restored the Undesignated Fund balance. The City's undesignated fund balance (savings account) is at $3.8M or back to a healthy 13% of the annual operating budget which is good for the City's financial position and AAA rating.
- Managing the Rising Cost of Healthcare — The Council took action by adopting in consultation with retirees a new post-65 retiree Aetna healthcare insurance plan saving about $200,000 per year covering about 80 retired employees.
- Joint Resolution for Mandate Relief by the City and School District — The Rye City Board of Education and Council passed a joint resolution for meaningful mandate relief to be enacted by the New York State government.
- The Osborn Resolution –The City, Rye City School District and the Osborn Home reconciled and ended the long-standing property tax dispute following a court decision.
- Law Department Restructure. The council re-organized the law department to shift from a variable hourly rate model to one that has fixed rates for general municipal activity resulting in substantial savings for the City.
- Water Rate Settlement with WJWW. The City successfully negotiated moderate rate increases with Westchester Joint Water Works compared to other municipalities.
- Dredging Lawsuit w/ RB Conway –The City settled favorably in this 2009 matter.
- Settlement of the Shew Matter — The Council approved a stipulation of discontinuance of the 2009 matter of former City Manager, Paul Shew.
- Highland Hall Settlement — The City negotiated a settlement to re-affirm tenant protection for all 99 units at 131 Purchase Street.
- City Prepares for a November Bond Referendum on Decaying Infrastructure. Rye faces major capital needs with a crumbling infrastructure to include roads, sidewalks, sewers, storm drains and flood mitigation and plans for a 2012 bond.
- The Central Avenue Bridge — The Council voted in favor of continuing the City's efforts to have the bridge rebuilt and work through regulatory issues with NY State DOT for a July 1st bidding of the project.
- 1037 Boston Post Road Site. The Council reversed the decision to develop a Police Station/Court House facility at the site for $25M and is continuing to explore all options.
- Re-organization of the Rye Fire Department — The City Council approved to amend the City Charter to establish a direct reporting relationship to the City Manager so that both the volunteer and career Fire Department personnel report into the same office.
- City Hall Positions. The Council in conjunction with the City Manger have hired a new generation of personnel to lead at City Hall to include the City Engineer, Building Inspector, Corporation Counsel, and City Manager. Fire inspector and Comptroller are pending.
- Emergency Notification Service. The City established use of the reverse 911 and Nixle.com alert service to notify residents of emergency situations.
- Government Policy and Research Committee. The Council established the Government Policy and Research Committee whose purpose is to provide an objective perspective to the community on City, County, and State legislative actions.
- A Newly Formed Rye Flood Committee Established — To advise the Council and assist the City in the implementation of the City's flood mitigation plan.
- Flood Mitigation Sluice Gate Gets Final Approval — Phase one of the city's flood mitigation plan got final approval and the work awarded for the sluice gate project at the Bowman Avenue spillway to regulate the water flow to help mitigation efforts. Phase two to expand the upper pond is under review.
- Beaver Swamp and Project Home Run — The City of Rye has actively participated in an administrative hearing on Beaver Swamp and Harrison's Project Home Run to determine flood mitigation solutions as necessary.
- Downtown Stop Signs were installed to replace traffic lights and have proven to be very successful in meeting the two key objectives of improving pedestrian safety and traffic flow.
- Federal Stimulus Pedestrian Safety Projects. A series of 5 pedestrian safety initiatives to improve sidewalks and roadways were completed around Rye.
- The Distracted Driving Epidemic — The City was very pleased to join the YMCA and Safe Routes to School to participate in a series of community efforts to raise awareness on this issue.
- Midland Avenue Stop Signs — The Council worked through Federal and County regulatory issues and began a stop sign pilot in order to allow safer crossing at Midland Avenue.
- Shared Roadway Initiatives. The Council established this committee to develop and initiate projects around Rye to allow for a more active, safe and shared roadways for walkers, joggers, bikers and drivers.
- Boston Post Road Pedestrian Safety Improvements — The Council acted to extend the Boston Post Road (BPR) Diet project by Osborn School.
Quality of Life Improvements
- Environmental Sustainability Committee Launched. The Council established an environmental sustainability committee to help the City inform and educate the public on sustainability practices, and to assist in developing a sustainability plan.
- $1M in Bird Homestead Grants Fully Recovered — As part of Rye's efforts for historical preservation, the City worked diligently and recouped the City's total financial outlay for this purchase.
- Public Sculpture Exhibition on Purchase Street
- The Council was pleased to approve a sculpture exhibition in May along Purchase Street as part of a program with the Rye Arts Center.
- The Future of Playland. The City has played an active role in working with the County to look at ways to re-invent Playland and make it successful for all Westchester residents.
- Friends Meeting House Opens — The City entered into a public-private partnership that opened the Friends Meeting House after 10 years of the facility being dormant.
- Affordable Housing Project Update — As part of the affordable housing settlement and the consent decree between the Department of Justice and Westchester County, Rye continues to move forward with one of the qualified projects that will open in August.
- Rye Town Park — Rye City and Rye Town have worked together to restore the quality of life of the park, improve its safety and environmental conditions, and operate under financial controls so as to not add financial burdens to resident taxpayers.