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Poughkeepsie Mayor Warns Of Tough Times Ahead

Mayor Rob Rolison, who has promised to right Poughkeepsie's fiscal ship, said Wednesday the city's spending has stabilized but added residents shouldn't expect quick and easy fixes.
Mayor Rob Rolison, who has promised to right Poughkeepsie's fiscal ship, said Wednesday the city's spending has stabilized but added residents shouldn't expect quick and easy fixes. Photo Credit: File

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- Mayor Rob Rolison, who has promised to right Poughkeepsie's fiscal ship, said this week residents shouldn't expect quick and easy fixes.

He remains optimistic that -- with tough decision and sacrifices -- the struggling city will pull through with flying colors.

Poughkeepsie has stabilized its spending, but there are still tough times ahead, mostly due to "unrealistic revenue projections," Rolison said Wednesday.

The mayor, who was elected in November, blamed the city's reliance on “budget revenues that have exceeded reality."

He pointed to the 2015 budget, where, he said, expenses exceeded revenues by more than $1.5 million. Revenue projections fell that year by close to $4 million.

The 2016 budget, which he inherited, is trending the same way.

Current revenue projections are likely to come in about $2.2 million under budget, the mayor said, and a deficit of $1.5 million for the current fiscal year is expected.

Rolison, noting he was elected “to right this fiscal ship,” said folks shouldn’t expect a quick or easy fix.

“We will need to make tough budget decisions,” he added, predicting a projected budget gap for 2017 ranging from $3 to $4 million.

Rolison said a 2013 audit report by the state Comptroller’s Office had drawn attention to the city’s reliance on “one-shot” and other revenues to balance budgets.

He cited inflated real property sales, unrealistic parking fees and parking fines enacted without proper legislation.

Other factors adding stress to the 2017 budget process are increases in employee health care costs and contractual settlements, the mayor said.

One of the so-called "one-shot" deals involves $1 million in permit fees for the Vassar Hospital expansion. It will not be available for the 2017 spending plan, Rolison said.

There also will be an increase in pension costs to repay the pension system for the amount amortized in 2012, he added.

The mayor promised taxpayers he and city officials will work “tirelessly” to find solutions to relieve the city’s financial stress. Among the measures planned are reviews of all spending and hiring.

The city will be looking at staff in several key departments “in an effort to improve efficiency and allocate manpower,” Rolison said.

Poughkeepsie also is exploring ways to share services with the county.

The state Financial Restructuring Board is working on recommendations that could help Poughkeepsie improve not only its fiscal stability and management, but also improve the delivery of public services.

“The challenge before us will not be accomplished without tough decisions and sacrifice, but in the end our community will be better served and will be headed toward a brighter future,” Rolison said.

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