An Interview with City Manager Greg Usry
By Robin Jovanovich and Tom McDermott
Two days after last month’s run on several big banks, including Silicon Valley Bank which collapsed the following day, Rye City Manager Greg Usry called City Comptroller Joe Fazzino, who was also closely monitoring the financial crisis. They spoke at length that Saturday about the safety of Rye’s investments and accounts.
At the City Council meeting on March 15, Usry explained that the City may hold between $50 million and $75 million at any given time because it collects property, school, and County taxes, and proceeds from bonding. “We take that responsibility seriously.” The City’s monies are in accounts at two banks and two investment funds, one of which the Rye City School District also uses.
“The City’s funds are secure,” said Usry.
On April 4, when we sat down with the City Manager for a lengthy interview, Usry expanded on the City’s finances and how they’re being spent.
He explained that under the new policy adopted by the City Council collected funds are collateralized and invested in short-term bonds as necessary. “More of our funds are under management. This complies with State law and was signed off by the State Comptroller’s Office.”
Rye’s investments are with banks that must syndicate funds overnight, split into $250,000 portions, so they are fully insured, he added.
In 2022, the City authorized $13.5 million in debt. “We jumped into the market, taking advantage of the then 2.2 percent interest rate,” said Usry.
What is that money being spent on? It’s earmarked for Forest Avenue sidewalks; sewers; stormwater improvements; and replacement or repair of DPW buildings — Building 5 will be torn down and using the same footprint be replaced by a two-story structure which will house a real office, changing rooms, and eating area above a covered garage for refuse trucks, the roof and trusses will be replaced on Building 7, and a new salt shed will be constructed. Once those projects are in progress, Usry said the staff will focus their attention on redesigning the resident recycling area and transfer station.
Once the latest design drawings for Forest Avenue sidewalks, which will run from Apawamis Avenue to Manursing Way, have been approved and sent on to the Department of Transportation for their approval, the work can begin, likely this fall.
“We have $42 million of capital improvements to do,” Usry note.
To fund those projects, the City is going to use $7 million from its CapX reserves, $13.5 million from bonds, another $13.5 million from grants, including the recent $10 million grant related to the Save the Sound settlement, “which State Senator Shelley Mayer and Assemblyman Steve Otis were enormously supportive of and helped us secure,” and an additional $6.3 million in State funding for roads.
Overall, the City’s financial picture is sunny, with no storm clouds gathering.
The City gets “the float” on the School District taxes. Last year, the City budgeted $100,000 in interest earnings; this year they budgeted $800,000 and Usry thinks they’ll beat that number. “Our taxes, less remittances, are providing more income than ever.” Sales tax revenues are also trending up.
Meanwhile, the work to reconstruct and repave Rye’s two main downtown arteries, Purchase Street and Purdy Avenue, that began right after New Year’s will be completed on time. “Before the project commenced Ryan Coyne (City Engineer) and I received assurances from Con Edison that the work would be done before Little League Opening Day when the teams parade down Purchase Street.”
Usry applauds the work performed by Con Edison and Hawkeye Company. “It’s the best job I’ve seen them do. And we only received two calls from complainants.”
The City Manager is among the many Rye residents who is looking forward to the Little League Parade on April 22.