By Tom McDermott
The November 29 City Council meeting featured a Budget Workshop in which representatives from the Rye Free Reading Room, RyeTV, Police and Fire departments, the Boat Basin, and Rye Recreation made brief presentations to the Council in support of their financial requests for 2018. But, the most important budget discussion came towards the end of the workshop, when Comptroller Joe Fazzino and Councilwoman Kirstin Bucci presented options that would create a tax compliant 2018 budget. The City’s original budget request called for a 6.2 percent tax increase, $744,000 over a tax-compliant budget.
Fazzino presented the Council with revenue and cost savings options that would reduce the budget by $745,000.
He proposed savings of $145,000 created by
not filling an Assistant Building Inspector’s job, based on an estimate that building permit issuance could fall during 2018. Bucci explained that there was a hedge against this risk: if, in fact, the City found that permits were keeping pace with 2017 or increasing, that position could be filled. Fazzino noted another $100,000 of increased revenue in sales tax, parking permits, and vehicular and traffic fines.
The alternative budget proposals also included a $100,000 reduction in legal fees, eliminating a $50,000 Rye Town Park contribution, $160,000 savings through past installation of LED lighting, and City cleaning and building contracts. The largest cost reduction estimate, $190,000 was in hydrant fees, which are already being passed on directly to residents.
There will be further discussion of options available in order to get to a tax cap- compliant 2018 budget. Those options do not guarantee, however, that the groups who presented at the workshop will not have changes to their operating budget requests.
Library Director Chris Shoemaker noted that the City provides only 70 percent, or $1.28 million, of the Library’s $1.7 million budget. Incoming President of the Board of Trustees Francis Jenkins reminded the Council that the Library needs to be open longer.
RYETV Access Coordinator Nicole Levitsky proposed a $986,000 in spending for 2018, up from $424,000 in 2017. The increase is entirely due to a critical need to replace equipment. All the proposed spending, to replace cameras, tripods, lighting grids, and a host of other items that are 7 to 20 years old and outmoded, would come from cable fees, not taxes.
Boat Basin fees are also paid for by mooring and other fees, however, anticipated dredging, which Supervisor George Hogben said could start after Thanksgiving 2018, will cost $1.2-1.3 million. Fazzino estimates that the Basin’s fund balance will be just over a million dollars.
Public Safety Commissioner Corcoran is proposing an additional $300,000 for the hire of three new firefighters. The Police Department would continue as staffed with 37 officers.
The Council noted the valuable contribution each of the presenters makes to Rye, but made no commitment to accept the budget requests in their current form.
City Comptroller Joe Fazzino and Councilwoman Kirstin Bucci during the Budget Workshop