POUGHKEEPSIE – The Common Council adopted Mayor Rob Rolison’s proposed $89 million Poughkeepsie City budget for 2020 Monday night.
Rolison submitted the spending plan to the council for consideration in October. A public hearing was held on December 9. At that same meeting, members of the common council had the opportunity to question members of the administration and department heads on their respective budgets.
Council Chairwoman Ann Finney proposed $275,000 worth of amendments to the budget on Monday night. They include a $75,000 request for independent consultants for the common council, $20,000 for ward monies, and $50,000 for outside legal counsel to be used by the council, in addition to the city’s corporation counsel, and a $6,923 salary increase for the city chamberlain.
Council members Yvonne Flowers and Matthew McNamara questioned the salary increase noting that it singled out one employee. Both McNamara and Flowers agreed that the chamberlain is well-qualified but both were concerned about how the figure was derived without any salary study.
Councilman Chris Petsas called the increase “appropriate” and said the chamberlain does “a remarkable job,” adding that the increase brings the salary in line with other departments. Mayor Rolison chastised the council for debating an individual employee’s salary in an open forum.
The budget, with Finney’s amendments, passed unanimously.
A second round of amendments was offered by Councilmember Sarah Salem. The first called for $90,000 to be taken from the contingency fund and set aside to be used as a match for any grant applications that will help fund an update to the city’s comprehensive plan. The amendment passed unanimously. The second amendment added $25,000 to the independent consultant line that had previously been increased to $75,000. The amendment brought the council’s independent consultant budget to $100,000 to pay for “expert opinions,” according to Salem.
Councilwoman Natasha Cherry announced her support for the added funding but said discussions need to follow because “there are a lot of blurred lines” with respect to the need. Flowers also questioned the additional increase of consulting fees at this time, noting that in the event that the council expends the $75,000, they have the opportunity to take extra money from the contingency fund when it is needed. The funding request passed by a vote of 8-1, with Flowers in opposition.
The budget amendments did not increase the dollar amount of the budget. The council used the $275,000 that was originally targeted for increased healthcare costs, but when the new figures were released after the budget was submitted, the rates remained the same as last year, resulting in the $275,000 being available for other uses.
Mayor Rolison was not happy with some of the amendments. “I am very concerned that the council has allocated approximately $184,000 for their own discretionary use with no clear plan on how they may spend it,” he said. “What it is even more bothersome is how some council members portrayed potential conflicts with the administration before they even have happened. We have worked very hard addressing their concerns for the past two years and they should know that.”
The budget will now return to the mayor who has the opportunity to veto the amendments within 10 days of receiving the formal document from the chamberlain.