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Peekskill Officials: Taxpayers Need Relief from State Pension Costs

The City of Peekskill is looking at state pension payments of more than $4.5 million , accord to a release sent out by the Peekskill Common Council.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following post was submitted by the Peekskill Common Council and has been sent out by the Peekskill Democratic Committee as well.  If you would like to post your news to Patch, click here.

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Peekskill, NY -- Mayor Mary Foster and the Peekskill Common Council blast New York State for its failure to get control of the sky-high increases in mandatory pension payments required from Peekskill. 

Pointing to the City Manager’s proposed 2013 budget, Mayor Foster explains that Peekskill has been collecting about $50 million in revenues in recent years but payments to Albany in 2013 will be over $4.5 million, having doubled since 2010.

“This situation forces very difficult choices in keeping taxes low and maintaining city services,” Mayor Foster said. “The shame is – Albany’s continued failure to slow down these skyrocketing costs forces higher taxes and reduced services on Peekskill taxpayers.  Instead of actually doing something about these skyrocketing costs, Albany operates as if municipalities are ATM machines that endlessly dispense local cash to cover their failure to control costs."

Up until now and despite these debilitating increases, the city protected taxpayers and the local workforce by freezing management salaries, consolidating services, and reducing perks and management benefits.  Additionally, the city mitigated the impact of the economic recession on city revenues by: using some reserves; keeping the tax burden on local property owners well below regional averages; and maintaining city services.

Unfortunately, Albany’s 2013-2014 pension mandates – a whopping $4.4 million and $5 million respectively – made it impossible to continue this delicate balance. As a result, the City Manager’s proposed budget calls for a reduction in the city’s full-time workforce of 31 employees.

“Our legislators and Governor need to realize that their failure to act is going to directly result in job losses in the City of Peekskill,” said Deputy Mayor Drew Claxton. “The members of our local work force are a vital part of our community. These workers are our neighbors, our colleagues and our friends, and it infuriates me that some of them will lose their jobs because of Albany’s negligence.”

“Through the ongoing budget review process, our number one goal will be to minimize the impact of these cuts to direct service delivery and focus instead on trimming overhead and administration,” said Councilwoman Marybeth McGowan. “Unfortunately, while we didn’t make this mess, we’re the ones who have to clean it up.”

Over the next 60 days, the Mayor and Council will be meeting with department heads and the City Manager to prepare a final budget for adoption. The City must adopt a final budget by December 1.

 


Leslie Lawler October 08, 2012 at 06:00 PM
This was submitted by the Common Council? Really? Then how come it went out as a press release from the Peekskill Democratic Committee via email and on Facebook within the last half hour? Shame on this council for turning Peekskill's financial issues into a political football....but not surprising, as this is their M.O. Let's be honest here, which I know is a completely unknown concept to this council. Peekskill's financial woes are a direct result of insane spending by this administration. Scores of residents have warned this council from the first day they took office, when they flipped an approved, zero-percent tax increase budget by the previous adminstration to hammer the residents with a 5% tax increase...remember that everyone? THAT was the first warning bell. This council has spent on a stream of endless consultants to study space in city hall, charettes to feel warm and fuzzy about contaminated property on South Street, social media consultants and surveys. What has the taxpaying homeowner gotten for their investment return? Zip. And NOW, with impending layoffs, this council still wants to bulldoze forward (aka backwards) for the central firehouse. #votethemOUT
jo October 08, 2012 at 06:02 PM
tip of the iceberg... unsustainable... house of cards ready to implode..
Leslie Lawler October 08, 2012 at 06:21 PM
You didn't make this mess? YOU CERTAINLY DID! Trust and believe that the taxpaying homeowners have had enough. Now you want to pass the buck and blame. Shame on this entire council for their derelict representation of the people of this city! Are you for real? Fiscally-irresponsible resolution after resolution, there seemed to be no end to the ridiculous spending that you all were fooling with.....did you think of the city workers when you hired the endless stream of consultants? Did you think of the city workers and taxpayers when you bonded without thought and raided the water fund twice to pay for your mindless spending? Did you not pay attention to all of the tax certs refunded and the impact it would have....even then you didn't control your drunken-sailor spending. Did you listen to any resident that warned you of this impending mess? Did you think of the city workers and taxpayers when you embroiled us in lawsuit after lawsuit? Here's a press release and newsflash: the people of this city are not dumb and see right through your cr@p. YOU are all responsible for this mess and the buck stops with YOU. #you will be voted OUT
joshua tanner October 08, 2012 at 06:44 PM
I'm not a fan of the mayor and her posse but they have a point. NYS has been crushing municiplaities for years with its mandates - and people like Pataki (who I vioted for 3 x) didn't help because he bent over backwards and forwards to see unions (hospital workers etc.) got their raises and he got their votes. The interesting question for Foster et al is that if they know the state is sending so many brudens down the hill why then make things worse with a massive firehouse that everyone sensible KNOWS has had its costs undersestimated? Its bad enough the school board has been on a spending spree. I dont care that interest rates are low and money is cheap. If you're broke you don't build an addition on your house just because you can get good terms. That's just crazy.
Leslie Lawler October 08, 2012 at 06:52 PM
You're right, Joshua to the extent that "NYS has been crushing municipalities for years with its mandates...." and knowing this years-old-fact-of-life, this council STILL made reckless fiscal decisions that have now put this city in financial peril. Your closing analogy is spot-on. What do they say....death and taxes are a part of life....well, I as a homeowner, know that taxes are a part of life.....so if I KNOW going in that I have to pay "x" in taxes....do I just mindlessly make the decision to spend "y" and "z" on all sorts of whims just because Macy's has a sale? You're right. It's just crazy and now the taxpayers and city workers have to pay the price for this council's irresponsible fiscal leadership.
jo October 08, 2012 at 07:17 PM
not only did I remember her flipping that "passed budget"..but I actually went to a meeting to protest to her face..told her it was morally dishonest and disingenuous.. rolled off her like water on a ducks back....
jo October 08, 2012 at 07:21 PM
less gov not more.. please ..
john basic October 08, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Can someone stop the madness. The state and cities sign union contracts that pay a pension based on the last year the employee works. Of course a person that makes $50,000 works a lot of OT the last year and makes $100,000 then "retire" with a pension of $70,000 a year. No wonder taxes go up.
SPK October 08, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Under Gov. Cuomo, we have had Pension reform. Good start. But no where close to what's required to avoid turning into the next CA, IL and RI. Modest solution: don't touch current employees and retirees. But effective tomorrow, every new state and local employee becomes eligible for a 401k, or its public sector equivalent, with local matching if finances permit. End defined-benefit pensions for new employees right now. Follow the Rule of Holes: When you find yourself in a hole, first thing you do is stop digging.
peekskillman October 08, 2012 at 09:16 PM
ms Lawler and Mr. Tanner, you both make very impressive arguments, which I agree with 100%. May I add the following: in order to save many of the positions, why doesnt the Council sell off all the property that they are sitting on , which would yield tax revenues once sold. Mothball the new firehouse, it doesnt make sense to build such a large structure, when in fact they are reducing the workforce. Same goes with the proposed new fire truck, if they have money to bond out a loan, then bond out the same money to save workers. I cant see how laying off over 30 long-time workers is going to help in the long run, as now you are going to have the same amount of people potentially lose their homes, go into debt, and perhaps lose their medical. This has been a long time coming, and to blame the mess on Albany is not fair; a shortfall of this magnitude had to be seen by someone on the Council, esp since Ms Foster and Ms Claxton are in the financial fields. What a shameful day it is going to be when these workers are pink slipped.
Bill Schmidt October 08, 2012 at 10:02 PM
As usual Leslie your analysis is spot on. Let's not forget as well that this crisis has been brewing a very long time. As long as 10 years ago the city's actuaries warned about the coming pension crisis which is why a substantial reserve fund was built up prior to this administration taking office. This mayor bled down those reserves to pay for day to day expenses and plunged the city further into debt by buying environmentally contaminated properties and removing them from the tax rolls. So now our financial condition lies somewhere between Athens and Sacramento. Mary can blame Albany, Washington, Cuomo, or Bush all she wants, but the fault lies with her administration and nowhere else. Welcome to bankruptcy,
john basic October 08, 2012 at 11:09 PM
I would touch existing employees. What is wrong with switching them over to a 401K plan. It happened to me a few years ago. It's time we got serious about what a "Pension" really is. It is not a plan to rip off the government and tax payers, that's for sure!
leesther brown October 09, 2012 at 03:22 AM
First off they put off paying pension payment so she could create that BS fake budget last year...They hire a Comptroller(Charles "You In The Hole" Emberger" that left the last city(Newburgh) he worked for in what a first glance looked like $12.000.000 and after another look they were $20.000.000 in the red now facing State takeover..And now they want us to believe that it's $5.000.000 here....Yeah!! This is the Comptrollers fault,he held the purse..#getthemallthefoh..
enoughalready October 09, 2012 at 05:06 AM
First let me do something apparently no one else has tried to or you tried to do on your own in regards to NYS Pension education. First, Its not possible to go from a $50k salary to $100k in overtime to then retire at 70k. In NYS you can make whatever you are able but you are only allowed 20% above the previous year for retirement calculation. Additionally most retirements are 50% of your final average. There are some that you get an additional 1.66% per year after 20 years maxed at 36 years, I'm not sure if any peekskill workers have that. Switch to a 401K? Go ahead..good luck in the quality you'll see in public employees. How convenient to blame the workers pensions and healthcare cost. Pensions the smoke...health care the mirrors. 2 of the contracts have them contributing to healthcare. The pension increases aren't such a surprise. But how many consultants? How much did the renovation of the conference room cost? A fire truck? Contaminated land purchase? No addition to tax base? Remember target? Are you kidding me? I hardly blame the employees.
enoughalready October 09, 2012 at 05:18 AM
Leesther I respect your comments and your spot on. Every single one of you are..the only thing I would disagree with is the bashing of the employees and their pensions. The press and politicians run around like municipal employees are getting rich on retirements...its far from the truth. Do some digging..NYS retirement system is funded at 105% and the state comptroller touts it as one of the strongest in the nation. Then why are we still getting killed locally with pension cost increases? Think outside the box, think politically and don't get info from 20 seconds comments on cable news. Say what you will but cops and firemen do things many of us wouldn't..they chose it yes..but thank god they did. They deal with things in society most of us don't want to know exist. Going at 50% of their salary is peanuts. Maybe Mr. Schmitt can be more accurate but wasn't it in the area of $9 million reserve left to Foster upon taking office now its (they say) $5 million deficit. That's $14 million in 5 years..where did go? If you believe it was Pensions and healthcare I have some prime real estate to sell you never mind the hard metals and solvent smell. Anyone know how many attorneys the city is using? How many lawsuits? How many events they ok'd that require police overtime? I don't go to man but taxes pay for xtra cops. But its ok we'll just keep watching the meetings they are all giggling in while 30 people will be unemployed. Last thought came as I typed. Employees pay taxes too.
sayitsnotsojack October 09, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Get the Democrats out of government, Vote Obumma out and his pals.
George in NY October 09, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Again politicians use the OLD excuses. mean old state pension system. Greedy employees did it, not our fault BS. A recent quote from State Comptroller. DiNapoli wrote that “When I am asked, I like to remind people that it wasn’t retirees who caused the financial crisis—reckless actions by some in the financial sector led to that disaster. Blaming pensions for our troubles misses the boat.” From Comptrollers website, Average Pensions: Average pension for all ERS retirees in FY 2012: $20,241 Average pension for all PFRS retirees in FY 2012: $42,259 Politicians love to mis-represent pension system payments now due as out of their control and unexpected huge increases. Reality is that in the 90's the State allowed local governments to make lower and no payments to pension system as system was making money on investments. Now they have to make payments they committed to and suddenly scream about vast percentage increases. Kind of like landlord allowing you to skip paying rent for a year then telling you now you have to start paying some each month and you screaming raised my rent 100%. All this pension blaming is simply attempt by various political entities to defer the light from their own failures as leaders. George in NY
George in NY October 09, 2012 at 02:52 PM
From: http://www.empirecenter.org/Special-Reports/2010/12/pensionexplosion120710.cfm "The record-breaking investment returns of the 1980s and ‘90s lulled New York’s elected leaders into a false sense of complacency. State and local payrolls were ex-panded and retirement benefits were enhanced under the assumption that pension costs would remain near historic lows. The downturn of 2000-03 and its impact on pension costs should have come as a wake-up call to state officials. Instead, they responded with pension funding gimmicks and minimal “reforms.” AS they always do, kick the can down the road then blame someone other than themselves!
Areyouserious October 10, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Go ahead and layoff Police Officers, DPW workers and Firemen - Mary and Co. Are going to pick up the garbage, put out fires and protect the public. Foster has it all covered, after all she no longer needs the police department to deal with her endless neighbors disputes. But dont forget to thank her for the many beutiful art displayed around the city, in particular the $ 40,000 statue of a diver that adorns the riverfront. Foster needs to stop utilizing pensions as an excuse. Lets blame the expensive Ipads purchase for each counsel member, the super costly meeting room, the purchase of useless real estate, expensive art and the upcomming firehouse (that the real firemen have said that they dont need right now) as the real budget crisis. Cut down the ridiculous spending and provide us with the services we need. We need Police Officers, Firemen and DPW workers.

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