To the Editor,
Former Mayor Doug French has been a friend for a long time, so I was dismayed to see his attack on the work of the current City Council in last week’s Rye Record. It is disappointing that Doug has not stayed involved after leaving office to work on the problems he highlights. If he had, he would know that many of the legacy issues left by his administration and Steve Otis before him have been dealt with by this council over the past four years. Legacy issues do take time to resolve, but we have systematically addressed them.
First step, a new city manager. Second step, a new police commissioner. Then, based on the research and analysis of the Rye Fire Department Task Force, the council created the position of public safety commissioner, which voters approved last year. Commissioner Michael Corcoran, who has earned the respect of his officers as well as the community, is implementing policies and procedures that improve both management structure and operations at the Fire Department, while respecting its revered volunteer history; not exactly “stalled RFD with no clear leadership.”
I am so happy that Doug brought up the Citizens Report given to his council on Feb. 29, 2012. I had not seen any progress on that report until early 2014 when our council, under Mayor Joe Sack’s new leadership, became directly involved in labor negotiations with our unions, something Mayor French thought was inappropriate to do. This process continues with ongoing discussions asking for all city employees to have the same health care coverage (a potential annual savings of $1 million for the city), and new employees to contribute a portion of their health care premiums in retirement. The current unfunded accrued liability for retirement health care is almost $78 million, something the state does not allow us to reserve for. A yearly cost of more than $6 million represents 18 percent of our budget. Councilwoman Kirstin Bucci and I have continually highlighted these issues from the dais and in various newspaper articles.
The financial picture of the city is good and our AAA rating was just reaffirmed. We had the first audit with all lingering control deficiencies of prior years’ cleaned up. Initiatives at Rye Town Park have resulted in going from a huge deficit to a surplus. During the recession, non-discretionary revenue, building permit fees and the mortgage transfer tax dried up. The previous council was forced to cut spending on roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure. That infrastructure is still struggling because of the deferred maintenance, and when it is delayed, repairs end up costing more. Our council has increased spending drastically on roads and sidewalks in an effort to catch up. But there are many infrastructure needs and tough decisions on spending our tax dollars that will have to be made by the next council. Because of the millions that will need to be spent fixing our sewers, we are looking at alternatives to funding sewer fees and hydrants. However, no legislation was “put through to circumvent the tax cap” as Doug claims.
We did approve legislation that requires a public vote for any real estate purchase more than $1 million.
As for Playland, I agree with Doug but no one else on my council does.
I am proud of the hard work and dedication of our council. I also believe the All Rye team led by Mayor Sack has the experience, philosophy and skill set to continue to provide good government to the city of Rye.
Rye City councilwoman