Guest Column by Ted Carroll
According to last week’s Rye City Review, Rye City Management is proposing a 6.73% local property tax increase for 2017. City Manager Marcus Serrano claims its “impossible to stay below the tax cap” of .68%. How about this – no increase for abused residents in 2017, let the builders prove their unsupported affidavit cost submissions and pay up for a real change of pace…
(PHOTO: Building activity is up, but fees are projected to be down. Huh? See the full stats here.)
Anyone who lives in the City of Rye today knows that residential construction is everywhere and in many cases out of control with builders frequently not following the rules. I’ve never seen such undisguised contempt for residents tolerated by any prior city administration or city council. Builder subcontractors, for example, on my mother’s street this spring tore lose utility wiring that remained hanging about 5 feet off the pavement in a public street turnaround circle for literally months. Any bicyclist not paying close attention could have been garroted. No amount of calls by me to city hall or the police department could bring resolution. Only the complete tear down of the wires by yet another builder subcontractor on the same street brought Verizon & Cablevision out to replace their mangled infrastructure.
Builders: Trust Us
In May I wrote a column using my background as a CPA and former Rye City auditor to showcase a gaping internal financial control weakness in the building department. That MyRye.com article – “Rye’s Political Assessments – Found Money” begins with the following proposition – “I’d like to reduce everyone’s property taxes. Interested?” The official silence from city hall was unfortunately both predictable and deafening.
In June I followed up with a more detailed analysis, doubling down on these lapses in financial controls favoring the largest political donor industry in the city and proposing easy to implement solutions to inject accountability and transparency using 3rd party proof to prevent shortchanging and fraud.
That June MyRye.com article – “Trust, But Verify? Nyet So Fast” – makes the case for reform, does the long math showing overall annual city budget financial impacts, and analyzes the tangible impact of an actual case of apparent serious ongoing building and assessment fraud by one of the city’s largest political donor family’s. The official city hall silence to these revelations was again predictable and deafening.
Residents: Pay Up
So now we’ve arrived at official annual budget season and for the 3rd year in a row city management is forecasting a DECREASE in building permit and license fee revenues while on the very same page noting cheerfully that “Building activity has seen tremendous increases and has rebounded from the recession. This trend is to continue in 2017.” (See attached 2017 Budget schedule here)
I believe that by adding a single clerical position under the supervision of our excellent City Comptroller Joe Fazzino we could easily internally proof check all of these building and permit final cost affidavits against the basic 3rd party documentation that builders can supply. Habitually honest builders would see zero permit cost increases.
And since the 2nd largest revenue line item in our entire city budget behind Property Taxes is this area of Licenses & Permits, I believe it’s reasonable to predict substantial and material compliance related permit revenue increases. After all, everyone knows these large dollar ‘I Swear” final cost submissions are not being policed. And this I suspect is also why the local building industry and certain political class individuals perhaps contribute so heavily and so consistently to all the city council election races in Rye.
I think they’re probably getting real value for their money. How about the rest of us?
Ted Carroll is a lifelong Rye resident, a Certified Public Accountant, and a partner at Noson Lawen Partners, a media industry private equity firm.
See Carroll’s other recent MyRye.com commentaries here: