Editor’s note: This is the copy the mayor read from; he did deviate from the text on a few occasions when he actually gave the speech on Tuesday, March 5 at City Hall.
I am proud to say Kingston’s on the move. In the 2012 State of the City, I explained how we are all stakeholders who have a substantial investment in our city. However, in order for our city to actualize itself as a model city, there must be a public/private partnership made of stakeholders such as: residents, businesses, professionals, seniors, children, veterans, clergy and faith-based community leaders, not-for-profits, volunteer groups, schools, citizen groups and our county, state and federal representatives, so that our city through this partnership may obtain a maximum return for all our stakeholders’ investments in the city. We all got a piece.
In 2012, I referred to Kingston as a “model city”. I said that in order for us to succeed as a “model city” we must change the culture within our city government. I said we must also address Quality of Life concerns of our stakeholders that have thwarted our city’s growth and economic development for too long.
I vowed to restructure and reinvent, where necessary, our government to be transparent, accountable, accessible for all stakeholders; and to ensure our government acts on behalf of the public interest, not the select few in the culture of entitlement prevalent for many years which impeded our city from developing.
Simply put, we are now managing our government as a business, and similar to all our stakeholders as they would manage their households. Our city government is now accessible, and –fair—for all stakeholders. I’m telling you… with your help, Kingston is on the move.
Thus, restructuring of our government over the past year has been reinvented—there is a more efficient use of stakeholders’ tax dollars to address the daunting, and at times, very complex Quality of Life issues festering in our city so we can attract new residents, successful businesses, professionals and tourists to our community.
For our city to become that model city it can only occur if there is a partnership with all the stakeholders in our community. Kingston needs to see all you in this partnership. We can only continue on our community path to success if we include everyone.
While preparing our 2013 Budget, my administration implemented a transparent, fiscally responsible modified, zero-based budget for all city departments. The following factors were considered during the preparation of the 2013 budget.
A. $1M deficit due to prior administration’s allocation from the city’s fund balance.
B. 2% tax cap with every 1% tax increase equivalent to $150,000 in spending.
C. Unfunded mandates such as Safety Net, health and pension personnel costs, Medicare Part B reimbursements, the former City Laboratory retirees and layed-off employees from prior to its closure.
D. Overall personnel costs at $.76 of every tax dollar spent.
E. Solid waste tipping fees.
F. Operational policy procedure for such items as time and attendance, overtime, compensation time and the use of city vehicles, equipment, cell phones and consultants.
G. Consolidation of Services—Ulster County 911 and Kingston Fire Department communication dispatch, with assistance from County Executive Mike Hein, Ulster County. Tourism consolidation with Ulster County again with my friend County Executive Mike Hein’s assistance.
H. Opportunity to increase budget revenue through expanding our commercial sales tax respectively and by pursuing federal, state and private foundation monies as well as funding from the private sector.
I. City bond rate and review of refinancing of the city’s long term debt service.
Despite increasing fiscal pressures, a struggling economy, continued unfunded mandates from the state, hospital’s closing, school closings, sink holes, fire department scandal… the 2013 Budget adopted by the City Council kept property taxes under New York State’s 2% property tax cap increased budget revenues, resulted in savings from our city bonding and actually improved our bond rate. This was achieved while still maintaining existing services and addressing Quality of Life and infrastructure for our community. How did we do it?
- With help, from you, our city’s stakeholders. What did we do?
- $85,000 savings in personnel costs from Kingston Fire Department.
- Tourism Consolidation saved us $20,000 and the continued agreement with Ulster County 911 and Kingston Fire Department brought a savings in personnel costs.
- In 2013, the consolidation of the City Registrar with City Clerk resulting in savings of $30,000 per year.
- The savings from the City Lab health plan approximately over $100,000—with a caveat that this is in litigation and the outcome from this and final savings has yet to be determined.
- The city has also found savings from Operational, procedural and internal controls for time and attendance, overtime and compensation time, and for other personnel-related matters such as use of city vehicles, cell phones, equipment. This resulted in a savings for each department’s capital equipment budget thereby reducing the city’s debt service.
- The city has saved tax dollars from refinancing of its bonds for Capital Improvement.
- In 2012 we assembled transparent internal controls for time and attendance, overtime, compensation time to help prevent fraud, abuse, wasteful spending. We need that money to transform the city.
- Savings from fixed tipping fees for solid waste disposal from Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency. The agreement also affordsKingston to continue single-stream recycling which helps to cover our cost of disposal and eventually the city can market the city’s recyclables to further offset our tipping fees.
Since the 2013 budget, additional cost reductions have continued through restructuring of City Registrar while still looking into more alternatives for savings from employee health and dental plans. It is imperative for the city, its stakeholders, our public employees and their union representatives to work together. None the less, to ensure we are spending stakeholder tax dollars wisely, we must have a long term financial plan coupled with the transparent, internal accounting controls for managing and spending our tax dollars for the public good. City Comptroller John Tuey is working on that long term plan when we prepare our budget.
In 2013 we must petition the New York State Legislators and all demand mandate relief from health and pension costs, NYSDOT and NYSDEC costs from infrastructure, repairs and economic development. Also we should continue to consolidate and share services when feasible and cost-effective with the County of Ulster and surrounding towns, like the town of Ulster. We must negotiate union contracts that are in the best interest of all stakeholders, resulting in saving of tax dollars.
An ideal city means that everyone is safe. We must reconnect all of our neighborhoods into One Great Neighborhood. One Great Community.
I am so proud of our Kingston Police Department for serving and protecting the public, and for their role in making this city a better place to live. Under the direction of Chief Tinti, the personnel, equipment and technological resources have been allocated and reallocated for:
- Foot patrols
- Bike patrols
- Youth Bureau
- Special assignments
- Special Investigations Unit
- Community policing
- Operation Clean-Sweep and Operation Dust-Pan
All accomplished without spending any additional taxpayer dollars. Moreover, that department has generated a new community spirit and positive moral. A true Esprit de Corps.
Community policing makes Kingston a better place to be. It makes Kingston a place you want to live, to work, and play.
We will continue to make Kingston safer for everyone. Chief Tinti will continue to review departmental operational and procedures, keep current with technology and social media, and partner with Ulster County Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum, New York State Police and departments in surrounding towns such as Town of Ulster.
In 2013 the Kingston Loan Development Corporation took title of the Bank of America on Broadway and parcel for the site of a proposed midtown police station. The KLDC and Office of Community Development shall arrange for funding this project. Kingston is on the move! The City’s Office of Economic Development and Strategic Partnership shall seek any available state, federal and foundation funds for the conversion of the building and site into a police station and to offset federal funds for the project.