Sunday, February 10, 2008


Dear Readers:

On Monday 02/11/08 the Peekskill City Council will raise your taxes. Everything you read about shoring up the reserve fund balance as a reason is bull. The problem is that candidate Foster who said the fund balance was too high, is not the same a Mayor Foster who now says the fund is too low. No matter the spin, you cannot escape the "flip-flop" lable in this issue. What is not a "flip-flop" is Mayor Fosters desire to raise taxes. She did vote no on the present budget. She expressed her displeasure in a no tax increase. What the Mayor wants you to do is pay for her promises to get elected. She wants more cops. Those positions must be paid for out of tax dollars. Remember this, come November, you will get another tax increase because the three cops who were hired under a grant by the state, that grant runs out this year. Those cops' pay will now come out of your pocket. She forgot to mention this during the latest budget discussions.

She is also increasing the size of government creating three new positions. She ran on these creations, however again she forgot to mention how they were going to be paid for, now you know. The question is in this time of a fear of recession, are these luxuries necessary right now? Is it wise fiscal management to increase the size of government when people are trying to keep up with expenses? Remember the state is ready to raise your taxes(fees) in the next thirty days. I am convinced if she follows through on this tax increase, she will be a one-term mayor as she must raise taxes to pay for those three cops mentioned above.

As the Gateway project is now going to all affordable housing, and her new blue print for the riverfront emphasizes tree-hugging over tax base, you see her choice for the future of Peekskill is the raising of taxes over the increasing of tax base. This is why local elections are important, not all change is for the better. Those who for whatever reasons did not vote last November, you are getting what you deserve.

GUEST COMMENTARY : Don’t mess with this legacy
By John Testa

As we all watch in disbelief how the new administration in Peekskill moves forward with an unprecedented and unconscionable maneuver to ‘redo’ the 2008 budget in order to change a 0% tax increase to a 6% increase, we can see a total misrepresentation of the facts surrounding it. In an attempt to rewrite history, the actions by my administration are being distorted, facts twisted and outright lies disseminated. As you may expect, I cannot sit idly by and let this go unchallenged. The City Council, staff and I worked too hard to bring the city’s financial status to its best in history and enable 3 years of 0% tax increases. The taxpayers deserve someone to stand up for them and state the facts about why there is absolutely no need for a 6% tax increase.Much of budgeting is common sense and restraint. Common sense will tell you that expenses are a big part of a budget and determine the revenue needed to pay for them. The amount of revenue helps determine the spending that can be accounted for without raising taxes. So, adding unneeded expenses to a budget is simply a foolish way of inventing a need for more taxes. This is where the restraint comes in. The most expensive part of a budget involves personnel; the salaries and benefits for employees comprise the largest expense to the city. The Foster administration proposes to hire 3 consultants (one of which will determine what the staff salaries should be; another will tell the city if the signs around town need to be changed; the third is a “Consultant Facilitator,” whatever that is) and create staff positions that are unnecessary for the success of the city’s operations, like the proposed $100,000 a year ‘economic development specialist.’ The proposal suggests moving funds from the capital account to the operating fund for this position. The capital funds to be transferred were put aside over a period of 5 years to pay for computer and hardware replacement. To move them to hide the cost of this new position is wrong. The expense will show up in the future and the computer replacement funding will be gone. This will require additional budget increases in the future. When we deliberated on the 2008 budget back in the fall we were very concerned about the ever-increasing cost of fuel, both for transportation and home heating. On top of that we were concerned about the uncertain future of the overall economy and the effect it would have on the average family. As we see now, that concern is real. It is certainly not a time for adding and creating new positions to the city organization. Let’s be clear; the proposed tax increase is merely a way of covering for the expenses created by hiring more employees. Expenses, by the way, that will recur each year from now on.In an attempt to fool the public, there has been a concerted effort to misrepresent and/or lie about the facts surrounding the City’s fund balance. Let me correct the situation with facts. In October of 2007 the City Council passed a Fund Balance Policy in order to assist our chances of obtaining an upgrade of our A2 Bond Status to an A1, something we were able to achieve. The policy is structured in a way to distinguish between a General Fund Balance and an Emergency Fund Balance. To utilize funds from the General Fund Balance the Council merely needs a simple majority of its members, which is what was done in the present 2008 budget. A 5-member vote is required only when Emergency Reserve Funds are used. We did not use these funds. The policy states: “The City may appropriate, in whole or part, funds designated for emergencies pursuant to a resolution of the Common Council approved by five members of such governing body.” The fund balance level in the City of Peekskill remains at unprecedented levels and in no way violates present policy. Moody’s Investors Service made that point clear in their official improved bond rating notice to the City on September 25, 2007, “Through multiyear forecasting and a trend of balanced budgeting, the city realized three consecutive operating surpluses which averaged a sizable $1.85 million. Most recently, fiscal 2006 ended with an able General Fund balance of $11 million or one-third revenues, more than double 2003 reserve levels.” That level was added to in 2007. So, utilizing an additional $500,000 from the fund balance in the 2008 budget as a means of preventing a tax increase was well within our policy and our moral obligation to the community.There is a distinction between unreserved/undesignated funds and general funds. The policy adopted requires a 10% minimum in the unreserved/undesignated portion of the reserve. That remains in place and has not been reduced at all. Ray Hart of “Public Finance Associates, Inc.” has been working with the City of Peekskill for many years and was our advisor in creating the policy and lobbying Moody’s to change our bond rating. In a letter to the City Council on September 5, 2007 Mr. Hart pointed out the importance of this 10% balance (contrary to a suggestion by Ms. Foster). “The original proposal established a 20% goal for the general fund’s unreserved and unappropriated fund balance. Councilwoman Foster suggested that the unreserved balance, including any designations such as amounts used in the operating budget, be used as the basis for the 20% goal. On further consideration, the recommended change would allow the City to designate all its unreserved fund balance leaving nothing for contingencies but nonetheless meeting the policy goal. Clearly this could leave the City with no “rainy day funds” and runs counter to the concept of maintaining a reasonable fund balance for contingencies. Therefore, the 20% requirement for the unreserved balance was refined to require that the unreserved and undesignated fund be equal to at least 10%. This provision strengthens the policy and gives it greater credibility.” Also, the policy is merely an internal one as Mr. Hart points out: “The policy is a working tool but not a straight jacket. If the policy requires modification, the City may make the appropriate changes.”Most importantly, the Moody’s rating upgrade is based primarily on the future development plans of the City and the fiscal stability it would bring. Besides their statement on Peekskill’s “Healthy financial operations reflect strong fiscal management” Moody’s also stresses the “sizeable and expanding residential tax base.” They based their determination on the fact that “Moody’s anticipates the city’s economy will continue to benefit from its $2 billion tax base, ongoing redevelopment efforts…” With the Target Project, Downtown Redevelopment Project and Gateway now dead and the Waterfront project in question (all thanks to the Foster administration) we will have to wait and see if Moody’s maintains the newly achieved bond upgrade. Time will tell. The new administration seems to be willing to move forward with the hotel proposal we initiated for John Walsh Boulevard and the office park on Corporate Drive but that won’t be enough. With the only prospects for development over the next few years being subsidized “affordable” and low-income housing, the future is in question. You can hire all the ‘economic development specialists’ you want, but if the only prospect for the future is affordable housing, then who will be drawn to invest here?There is much more to discuss such as the March of 2006 State Comptroller comprehensive report on the financial health of New York’s 65 cities. Peekskill was ranked in the Top 15 throughout NY State and second best in Westchester County while out performing 75% of the other cities around the state. There are also the comments from our independent auditors over the last few years. Just this past August, Nick DiSantis from O’Connor Davies Munns & Dobbins, proclaimed in the 2007 audit presentation that “the City of Peekskill is in excellent financial condition” and “The conservative budgeting approach by the city has really paid off.” Well, that approach seems to have been thrown out the window. Imposing an ill conceived 6% tax increase and adding more cost to government for years to come, is a clear indication of what any council person who votes in favor of it thinks of the hard-working taxpayers who will have to pay for it! The families of Peekskill have already planned their home budgets based on no municipal tax increase. To change it now would have a devastating effect on those families, especially those on a fixed income such as senior citizens. Of course, as the governmental body with a super majority in place, the “Foster” council can propose whatever they choose. However, they should have done so without misrepresenting previous actions and policies, especially mine. John Testa is the former mayor of Peekskill

MONDAY 2/11/08 Big Bang Jazz Gang
featuringDale DeMarco, David Savitsky, David Loy Song,Ben Newsome & David CasT-saxesFreddie Jacobs, John Leonard & Vito Speranza-trumpetsJoe Bacci& Howard Levy-trombonesBob Meyer-drums Neil Alexander-pianoRobert Kopec-bass

2/14 Valentine's Day Dinner Call for menu, Pricing, and Reservations
2/15/08 The House Band2/16 Betty MacDonald, Joe Beck and Charlie Kniceley
Friday 2/22 Roxy Perry
Saturday 2/23 John Abercrombie Trio

On Wednesday February 13th We are having our Holiday Party I know it is a bit late but such is life in the restaurant business - We will have live music (I hope) Food and Drink. It will be an opportunity for Nira, Me and the Staff to Hang with you all and have some fun together, thank all of you who have made this venture a temendous amount of fun, taught me a bunch, and support. live music and the arts in Peekskill, and elsewhere.
Dear Readers:
This gives me a chance to plug my business ATOM TAXI INC. As you are planning your holiday or business or vacation travel? Instead of the headache of trying to find Airport parking, we do Airport Service to The Westchester County Airport(and ALL other airports) 24/7. Just call 1(914)879-6121 and my partner Tommy, will be glad to take you in our Airport Taxi. You will also be provided with a free copy of your local paper of record The North County News. If this is a business trip we also provide a professional receipt, just tell Tommy at the time of booking. The cost of a one-way trip to the Westchester County Airport is seventy dollars. To LaGuardia Airport the cost is Ninety-four dollars which includes all tolls. The cost to JFK and Newark Airports is one hundred-twenty-five dollars which also includes all tolls. We do not take credit cards, sorry. ***********************************************************************************
Dear Readers:
It has come to my attention the difficulty in posting a comment on this blog. If you wish to comment, e-mail me at the link posted below, putting "Manifesto Reader" in the subject matter, and I will "cut and Paste" your comments myself. If you DO NOT wish your comments posted, but just wish to communicate with me, please make your wishes known in the e-mail.
LINKS: this a yahoo address make sure you put an underscore (-) between atom and taxi)
For immediate reply:

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All articles re-printed in this blog from the North County News are with the permission of Bruce Apar Publisher and Editor-in-Chief

BAZZO 02/10/08

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