The City rolled out a new fleet of garbage trucks this year and must build new garages for them next year.
Proposed 2020 Budget Calls for 1.7 % Tax Hike and Substantial Increase in Capital Spending
BY ROBIN JOVANOVICH
While government does not always move at top speed or efficiency, between Labor Day and Election Day the Rye City Manager, the Comptroller, and staff collect and crunch an extraordinary amount of financial and personnel information from every City department and, in short order, produce a preliminary budget for the following year. City Manager Greg Usry presented the tentative 2020 budget at the November 6 City Council meeting. At Public Workshops on November 13 and 18, the heads of Rye Golf Club, the Boat Basin, Rye Recreation, the Rye Free Reading Room, Public Safety, and Public Works came prepared to answer more specific questions from the Council on their estimated expenses, revenue streams, and major projects. On December 4 there is a public hearing on next year’s budget, which residents are encouraged to attend. The budget must be adopted by year’s end and is set to be voted on at the last Council meeting of the year, December 18.
The City Manager has proposed a $42,544,000 budget, an increase of 4.1 percent from 2019. It equates to a 1.7 percent property tax increase, which is $570,570 below the tax cap. Included in that budget are $1.9 million in street resurfacing, $350,000 for sewer and drain improvements, $100,000 for pedestrian safety and another $100,000 for traffic intersection upgrades.
For the first time since the 2008 recession, the City is budgeting a sizable increase in capital spending. They propose paying for the expenditures by using $3.59 million from the Unassigned Fund balance.
The City is faced with another $14 million in pressing capital projects, notably $3.1 million for the Police/Court facility, plus an estimated $600,000 for a temporary location for the courthouse while it is under construction; $4.75 million for new DPW garages; and $2.4 million for sewers.
The Rye library has asked for an additional $10,000 in funding next year in order to increase its public service hours from 59½ to 62.
Rye Recreation needs a major infusion of funding to expand its camp and classroom space. According to Recreation Superintendent Sally Rogol, they have looked at every available space and pretty much exhausted their options. “Ideally, we would like to be self-sustaining and hold all of our programs on-site.”
The Rye Police Department has cut its expenses by $6,700, but salaries are up by $187,000 and they are budgeting for a 37th officer in 2020. Additionally, the patrol equipment needs updating.
The Fire Department has made a strong case for a new pumper truck, which costs $500,000.
While sharing the good news that pension costs are leveling off, the cost of health benefits is going down, and all of the union contracts, with the exception of the firefighters, have been settled, Mr. Usry, in his budget report, shared several concerns. The slowdown in the real estate market, the taxable value of homes, and the significant decline in building permits ($400,000 in 2019) are top among them. Further, expenses are climbing — salaries by $15.1 percent; Fire and Police department costs by 11.9 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively; and Public Works by 7.8 percent.
The annual budget process is a good opportunity for Rye taxpayers to see that government can and does work.
Copies of the proposed 2020 City of Rye budget are available at the City Clerk’s office and at the Rye Free Reading Room.