The City Needs New Initiatives
To Find the Revenues it Needs
In the August 24, 2018 issue of The Rye Record, Mayor Josh Cohn spoke of the City borrowing $10,000,000 to address deferred infrastructure at an annual cost to the city of $700,000.
I was delighted to see that the Finance Committee was “examining every revenue stream and expense in order to provide the Council with an accurate picture of current and future costs and needs.”
Great to see the City Council and the Finance Committee focusing on the numbers, but I think there is more homework to be done.
My thoughts. First, the $700,000 figure is, I believe, illusory since it only speaks of the debt service on the suggested $10,000,000 borrowing. Unless the City devotes significant additional monies towards maintenance (not referenced in anything I’ve seen so far), the City will be back in the same position —significant unfunded deferred maintenance costs — when this debt is paid off.
Second, in reviewing operating agreements with the nonprofits, I think we need to try to quantify not only what the City does for these organizations but the value to Rye from the existence and programs offered by the nonprofits and what it means for the entire Rye experience and home values. Since the contribution to Rye from the nonprofits is an intangible, and therefore hard to measure, one possible input would be to compare real estate values of homes with similar characteristics to Rye, e.g. Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Bronxville.
Finally, Rye needs more money to cover expenses.
City taxes, as Mayor Cohn points out, are only 16% of total property taxes, but it is this 16% that bears the cost of salaries, benefits, roads, those things which affect all of us as distinguished from school taxes.
While Finance chair Greg Usry and his committee have done a good and necessary job in reviewing the numbers, effecting change requires exploring new initiatives.
I’ve seen nothing that suggests this Council is exploring options to identify and pursue potential new revenue sources.
- Gerry Seitz
To figure out how to pay for necessary capital projects, the City Council is examining the City’s finances in ongoing public hearings. We learned that RyeTV (RTV) has an annual income from cable fees of over $400,000. It is proposing to spend almost $1 million for new equipment and a new studio and almost $300,000 for two employees.
One of those staff positions is open. RTV has been asked to hold off on filling it while the Council reviews RTV’s operations and costs. Some residents associated with RTV oppose this hiring pause. With all due respect to everyone involved with RTV, I believe this review and hiring pause are appropriate – but they don’t go far enough.
Public access television is supposed to give residents and local organizations a voice. This is a terrific idea. Yet RTV is an anachronism. Cable television is no longer the most popular, cost-effective or accessible medium for small-scale video productions. The limitation on video self-expression is no longer money or technology. It is talent and imagination. Today, people make amazing videos with their iPhones and spread them far beyond the reach of local cable with their own (free) YouTube channels.
And how many people still watch public access television? For time-wasting relaxation, social media has replaced channel-surfing, which is how viewers are likely to encounter local cable shows.
Video production has become cheap, simple and accessible. RTV, or some service that replaces it, must reflect current reality. The Rye Free Reading Room has adapted to the declining popularity of physical books and remained a vital part of our community. Similarly, some Westchester communities have replaced their cable commissions with media commissions. Rye’s media service must evolve with the times. Losing its studio is not a disaster, but an opportunity to radically reimagine itself. We should take advantage of today’s cheaper, easier, more accessible technologies to create something new and wonderful.