King Solomon and Saint Francis
Drew was introduced by Phil Pessina, Minority Leader of the Common Council. Pessina praised the bipartisan approach of Drew, one fellow Republican Councilman, and himself.
Mayor Drew and I, along with councilman Joe Bibisi, saw the path we needed to take to get beyond an election period filled with politics, to a period of getting down to doing the city’s business. He along with Democratic council members recognized the opportunity and need to work with our minority party. ...worked tirelessly to change the culture of politics as usual on the council for the benefit of our city residents. The hue and cry from the public was that we want government to work together not against each other.
Drew in his address also praised others in city government, "We have worked together to make every effort to save money and run a significantly more efficient government than what had been."
Drew started his address, as he did last year, by enumerating the economic difficulties facing the city. He pointed to the difficult economy, and the reduction in aid from the state as significant challenges to the city budget, "This year, [the state] can’t share that money in the same way that they have traditionally and that leaves us with a large gap to fil and very few options on how to do it."
"It’s easy for us to lose sight of the uniqueness of the time in which we live. Lost to our consciousness in the minutiae of our daily lives is the profound reality that we are carrying forth in a time that no one but the most senior among us has ever before experienced. King Solomon said: 'in the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider.' We are living today with the strange dichotomy of prosperity and adversity."Drew emphasized that his priority was to protect funding for seniors, downtown events, the arts, and economic development projects. He said, "It remains important to me that we avoid layoffs in the City government and our school system."
Drew pointed to the challenges facing the Education budget for the city, he criticized the unfunded mandates from the state, in particular the requirement that the city pay tuition for children attending magnet schools. He praised the job that Superintendent of Schools Patricia Charles, as well as the Board of Education, has done with the education budget.
"St. Francis of Assisi said: “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Our district’s students, its teachers, and its leaders are moving closer to the impossible each day."Drew said the Board of Education had requested an increase of $5M, but said his staff had identified numerous ways that the Schools could save money.
"We are required by the state to give them only $1.6 million extra. ... I have proposed appropriating an additional $3 million in this budget, a number that should cover their contractual obligations without impacting teaching staff."The precipice of a bright future
Drew said that the future of our city was very bright, we have excellent credit rating that keeps the cost of city borrowing very low, "In a recent bond issue authorized by the voters we were rated Aa2 by other Moody's an S&P and achieved the lowest interest rate--1.6 percent--in the history of the City of Middletown."
He pointed to the opening of the riverfront that will be made possible by the regional sewer construction project.
"We have already been approached by multiple developers seeking an opportunity to build on our waterfront property."
"It has been the dream and work of many people over many years to get us to the point where we are today: standing upon the precipice of a bright future, staring at a horizon dotted with possibility and knowing that we will soon put shovels into the ground and build an asset which will continue to bestow prosperity and pride on this City perhaps hundreds of years after we are gone."
Drew's actual budget will be released Monday.
The Common Council is ultimately responsible for passing a budget. The Democratic caucus typically proposes changes to the mayor's proposal. Last year the Republican caucus also proposed budget changes; Pessina and Bibisi voted for the Democratic version of the budget.
The Council will hold open meetings in April to hear from each department in the government.