Monday, April 4, 2016

Budget, Building Committees, Tax Abatement, Mania, Fun Run, Parks, and Cruise at Council Tonight

Mayor Drew will deliver his budget for the coming year at tonight's regular meeting of the Common Council (April 4, 7PM, Council Chambers). The Council will also discuss and make decisions on a number of issues that will affect the city's future (full agenda). A public hearing follows his budget address and precedes the Council's decisions.

In his budget address, released on Friday, Drew lauds the city's efforts over the past few years, pointing to the building of the FedEx facility in Westfield, Liberty Bank's purchase of a Long Hill Road building, plans for condominiums along the river, and other real estate developments. He points to the improved credit rating, and generously shares credit with others:
Taken together, these facts signify a trend in which the City of Middletown has come together with a broad coalition of bi-partisan cooperation and with partnerships between the public, private, and non-profit sectors to consistently produce results that show it to be on the upswing and to be implementing policy and infrastructure decisions to the benefit of the people writ large. 
Public education is the largest single item in the budget. The Board of Education proposed funding of $81.8M, Drew cut their requested budget to $78.8M, an increase of 1% over last  year's budget. The mayor's proposal has already drawn considerable criticism (here and here).

Drew explained that fulfilling the Board of Education's request would be harmful to students:
... I don’t believe that last year’s budget is the appropriate baseline for us to be working from. If we don’t control some of those costs now they will hurt us more next year and our success to date could be in jeopardy. That will only hurt students in the long run.
The Board has done tremendous work in advancing our school district. But like the rest of us, they’ll need to make some difficult decisions about priorities and the structure of their budget. They need to examine what they need versus what they want.
[Note added: After this article was posted, Mayor Drew modified his budget address, in particular this passage. The address that he read at the April 4th Council meeting no longer claimed that it would hurt the students to fully fund the BoE request.]

The Common Council, ultimately responsible for the budget, will examine the mayor's proposal, and submit a budget for approval in the coming month. The Council typically schedules a number of meetings in April, each with public hearings, to discuss the budget for each department in the city.

Building a Riverfront Banquet and Boathouse
The Council will vote on the composition of a building committee for a proposed Banquet Facility with a Boathouse underneath, to be built at Harbor Park. The resolution states,
WHEREAS, the City of Middletown is developing the riverfront area including replacing and building a new boathouse; and
WHEREAS, the project will cost over $500,000 and would need a building committee to oversee its construction.
If approved, the Boathouse Building Committee will consist of Gerry Daley (Chair), Joseph Samolis (Vice Chair), Wendy Sheil, Jeff Clark, Jen Alexander, Lynda MacPherson, Angela Wong, Dan Cunningham, and August Defrance.

Funding For Main Street Events
The Council will vote on whether to sponsor two annual events which bring thousands of motor vehicle aficionados to Main Street each year.  Cruise Night on Main is scheduled for June 15th, and Motorcycle Mania is scheduled for August 10th. It will also vote on whether to co-sponsor the Citizen's Bank Fun Run on July 20th.

Funding For A Developer's Subsidy
The Council will vote on whether to provide a tax abatement to the developer of an apartment complex on Ward Street, behind the McDonalds on South Main. The fiscal analysis compares the revenue that the city would be collecting from the developer under this abatement to the amount of revenue that the city would collect on an empty lot. Not surprisingly, it finds that the abatement provides an increased revenue to the city. The size of the developer's subsidy from the city is not indicated.

Public Works Commission as Building Committee
Several parks improvement items are on tonight's agenda. The Council will vote on adding improvements to Donovan Park (behind MacDonough School) to the list of work to be done under the recently approved Parks Bond.

It will also vote on the composition of a committee to oversee some of the expenditure of the Parks Bond. This committee, to be called the 21st Century Parks Committee, will oversee Woodrow Wilson Track and Field Improvements, Woodrow Wilson Tennis Courts, and the Pat Kidney Park Improvements. Its proposed members are Gene Nocera (Chair), Carl Chisem (Vice-Chair), Philip Pessina, Frank Marchese, Amy Vaillancourt, Sheila Daniels, Maria Holzberg, Deborah Petruzzello, Louise Augeri, Joe Bibisi.

This committee is not tasked as a Building Committee.  The same resolution calls for the Public Works and Facilities Commission to serve as the building committee for Harbor Park, Smith Park, Wesley School Park, Lawrence School Park Improvements, Spear Park, and the Palmer Field Entry and Bleacher Repair.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Councilman Thomas Serra must be on the outs with the Mayor.

Tom has a multitude of knowledge regarding the Harbor area, parks and recreation, public works, etc, yet I do not see his name on any of the committees? He was also left off of the American Legion building committee for their museum.

Me thinks someone is being very vindictive to Tom?