PORT JERVIS — Budget meetings continue in the Port Jervis City Hall, as the Common Council deliberates further cuts for the fiscal year 2018.
Three ways are clear in Port Jervis budget cuts:
- Remove the request for a 19th police officer
- Give out zero or two percent pay increase
- Cut or Consolidate Programs and/or Personnel
Federally, the GOP Tax Plan has been passed by the bicameral Congress, a Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 has been signed into law as well as a Department of State Authorities Act for the Fiscal Year 2018. New York State has also been hard at work on its budget for 2018. Within this atmosphere, it was no surprise that Thursday, the Port Jervis Common Council tackled their on-the-fence 2018 budget for the umpteenth time.
The Port Jervis Common Council currently hung up on its tax bill and budget for the coming year is still at a present agreement of 8.13 percent, which must be passed before the Dec. 31 deadline, or default to a contingency plan that would hike taxes 11.1 percent.
At the onset of the Thursday budget workshop, many were in the general seating. However, after a short while, Finance & Insurance Chairperson and Councilperson Kristin Trovei had to leave for her family. In attendance though were Department of Public Works (DPW) Director, Jack Farr, and Police Chief, William Worden. Both spoke about where in the current budget, cuts could be made regarding their particular departments.
Starting out this year’s budget, Councilperson Lisa Randazzo reiterated often, that the council was aware prior to the budget discussion that the tax plan would begin with a baseline increase of seven percent.
That seven percent was due to a Serial Bond for construction projects, such as the Hudson Street Bridge, Tri-State Bridge, and Promenade projects. All voted for approval, and nearly completed earlier this year. All of the projects, Farr had mentioned during his time at the stand, as he defended the hard work of Port’s skilled laborers who had saved the city hundreds of thousands of dollars – each project, by doing things “in-house;” a unique quality of the Port Jervis DPW.
Also included in that seven percent, however, was to be more contested by residents: contracts coming up for negotiation and therein, insurance programs. Regarding insurance for city employees, they already pay 20 percent of the full cost. Yet residents have called to make room where the room can be made, renegotiating the contracts as soon as possible. While, fulfilling previous promises, such as training and certification, of course.
Chief Worden sounded more than willing to forgo a 19th police officer for another year, saving the city about $40,000, if a partial amount of that, perhaps “$25,000,” were set aside as a contingency. The point he made was that the department is becoming stretched thin as it is with crime filling cells and the central arraignment courthouse making booking criminals a trip to Goshen, Middletown, or Newburgh, putting police “in the business of transportation.” Not to mention Raise the Age implementation looming on the horizon (maybe June 2018).
Finally, the stiff-aired meeting adjourned with no solid answers arrived at, and no vote made. Yet, there was a single thread which may prove useful to alleviating budget woes: Many hard-working city employees deserved raises, nonetheless reasonable two percent increases, and not extravagant 100% increases. A sort of nod to the state-mandated two percent tax cap.
Of those that voted “no” Monday, present were all but Sarah Hendry: Gina Fitzpatrick, Lisa Randazzo, Maria Mann and Stanley Siegel, were all in attendance. Hendry’s comments in regards to these questions are therefore absent.
They answered questions regarding their courageous votes for their constituents, here:
Lisa Randazzo, Monday, had voted “no,” due to the “lack of consensus,” not wishing to move forward on a budget that may still sit poorly with her compatriots. She appeared to agree with an “across the board two percent” in regards to employee raises. However, while she agreed that the process of budgeting needed to change, she did not agree with the tight “line-by-line” evaluation, not suggesting any cuts in particular and seemingly content with where the budget was after having earlier seen 9.98 percent and eleven before that.
Gina Fitzpatrick’s vote was a “no” because of disparities between certain supervisors and their employees. Whereas a supervisor mentioned had made less than a supervisee, Fitzpatrick had wanted to see that balanced out. Contracts not included. Also, if possible in the days coming, she hopes for an “across-the-board” two percent increase cap for those asking for raises.
Maria Mann, having voted “no,” in favor of further cuts closer to seven percent if not the two percent state mandate, stuck close to her guns, Thursday. She continued, stating that with an “across-the-board” two percent increase cap and cuts such as trimming personnel and consolidating deeper, a 7.48 percent could be reached, at least, if not 6.95 percent, her goal. She stood her ground when questioned further about the 19th police officer, stating that she was strongly “against” removing the hire completely.
Stanley Siegel, longest-sitting “no” voting member of the council, to follow-up on the police officer, offered up the idea of per diem veteran hires. He had pointedly voted “no” Monday as his constituents, vastly stark in wealth compared to those in other wards were widely in disavowal of the 9.98 or even 8.13 percent increase. As he put it: “they are just hanging on by their nails.” The Fourth Ward is home to the largest part of elderly citizen homes where residents if they are lucky enough are on a fixed income and perhaps a small paying pension. His own pension, he detailed, from Veterans’ Affairs, accrues only about $1300 a month. He had visited numerous individuals and families and discussed in detail the budget with these same citizens again and again. He’s still steadfast in cutting it down as much as possible, hoping that maybe employees would take no increase at all, rather than even two percent.
Without a vote, we wait to see what the next budget workshop shakes out here in Port Jervis, NY.