Provided as a public service, Howard T. Phillips’ full written speech
Traditionally, the Reorganization Meeting is an opportunity to review our past achievements and set goals for the New Year. The Town Board members and I are proud of what we have been able to achieve with our Elected Officials, Department Heads and Town staff. For seven years we have been requiring that all departments do more with less and they have responded with absolute dedication and commitment in providing the most efficient and affordable town government in the state of New York. Let me begin by recognizing and applauding the Town Board members Isidro “Papo” Cancel, Vincent Gamboli, John Gould and Hector Soto. Without their cooperation, support and tireless work, it would be impossible to have achieved the successes that we as a board aspire to each year. I would like to list some of our accomplishments in the fiscal year 2012:
· The town secured a $190,000 grant to construct and install new lighting fixtures at Bowline Point Park at no cost to the local tax payer.
· Installation of Belgian Block curbs on Pine Street, Hemlock Drive and Castle Court at a cost of $95,000.
· Received an approved grant for $85,000 to install a new pump station at Bowline Park to replace our 37 year old pump station.
· Resurfacing of the Olympic size swimming pool at Bowline Park for $138,000 as well as purchase of new pool cover for $22,000.
· Constructed walking and jogging paths around Cheesecote Pond and repaved access road at $250,000. $236,000 of this was at no cost to the local taxpayer.
· Installation of new $50,000 playground equipment at Bowline Park at no cost to the local taxpayer.
· Completion of installation of bar screen at the Waste Water Treatment Plant for $625,000 at no cost to the local taxpayer. Upgrading a pump station at Haley Drive.
· Purchase of two new Ford F Series 350 dump trucks and plows at a cost of $77,000 for the Town of Haverstraw Highway Department.
· Purchase of salt spreaders for winter snow plowing at a cost of $15,000.
· Purchase of two new dump bodies and spreaders for Highway Department at a cost of $37,000. By purchasing the dump bodies we save the taxpayer the cost of purchasing two new trucks.
· Purchase of new Bandit Wood Chipper at a cost of $58,000.
· Purchase of new macadam sealer at a cost of $20,000.
· Installation of improvements at the Town of Haverstraw Justice Court at no cost to the taxpayer.
· Purchase three new police vehicles to replenish existing fleet.
· Purchase of police car computers and four portable light towers through Federal grant and seizure funds for $161,000 at no cost to the taxpayers.
· Construction of new police communication and records room at the Police Station.
· Purchase of two new electronic speed signs at no cost to the local taxpayer.
· Annual NR Youth Police Academy sponsoring over 35 students.
At the Town of Haverstraw Philip J. Rotella Memorial Golf Course we were able to accomplish the following:
· Hosted ESPN National Local Team Qualifier; 2012 Maccabi Games sponsored by the RC JCC Maccabi bringing golfers from 15 different countries; Golf Channel Amateur Tour Event; Junior RCC Eastern 13 Regional Championships; RC High School Championship; Hudson Valley Special Olympics, the fifth Annual Rally for the Cure for Breast Cancer and the Parent-Child Tournament.
· New fleet of 75 golf carts from Club Car.
· Installation of Belgian block curb and completion of irrigation system.
· Repair of 16th fairway from damage from Hurricane Irene at golf course.
On behalf of the Town Board we would like to recognize the outstanding work of our Superintendent, Cal Fowx and his staff as well as PGA golf pro, Mike Laudien and his staff.
At the Town of Haverstraw Bowline Park we hosted the following events:
· Annual Memorial Day Watch Fire sponsored by the RC Vietnam Veterans.
· The 3 Mile Fun/Run with over 500 participants which raised $9,000 for the DiCarlo, Fay and Santiago families.
· Rockland County Police Emerald Society, Inc. 3 Mile Run/Walk which was held to help defray the medical costs for Kevin O’Grady who is an active law enforcement officer.
· Annual 4th of July Fireworks and concert; Volunteer Firefighter and Ambulance Corp Recognition night, Thursday night open-air concerts; Labor Day concert and Peter Greene Foundation Fundraiser and Annual Halloween Festival.
We would like to thank Parks Director Mike Cotier and staff for their diligence and dedication throughout the year. Bowline Point Park continues to be the most beautiful park on the Hudson River.
In addition to the recreational events at Bowline Park, the town also sponsored the following:
· Co-sponsored second Annual United Latin Festival featuring a parade, concerts, and dancing.
· Co-sponsored Annual Dancing Under the Stars.
· Hosted the third Annual Hudson Valley Radio Control Club air show.
· Hosted the first “Helis over the Hudson” Radio Control Helicopter Show.
· Co-sponsored the Annual Hudson River Striped Bass Contest at the Haverstraw Marina.
· Co-sponsored the Hudson Valley Brickyard 5000 North Rockland Rowing Club.
· Sponsored our Annual House Decorating Contest for Halloween and Christmas and Hanukah. Special thanks to Tilcon NY, United Water, Zugibe Hardware and Beckerle Lumber for their donations.
The Town of Haverstraw Youth Board hosted the following events:
· Medieval Times; Sister Act; Ringling Brothers Circus; Michael Jackson Cirque Du Soleil; Yankee Game; Six Flags Great Adventure, American Museum of Natural History; Spirit of NY Cruise; Elf the Broadway Musical and The Christmas Spectacular. Please call the Town Hall for future Spring/Summer events.
Special thanks to Youth Board Coordinator Lorraine Arocena, Chair April Cobb and all those on our Youth Board who have brought together events that continue to be extremely popular.
To help offset your property taxes, we have been working diligently to bring in new rate-ables to the Town of Haverstraw; i.e.: the newly constructed New York Sports Club, the proposed shopping center located in Mt. Ivy the Minesceongo Park, the proposed Haverstraw Water Supply Project and the Mt. Ivy Country Corners Convenience Store on the corner of Route 202 and 45.
We continue to actively market the 174 acres at the former Letchworth Village site which the Town purchased in 2002. It has been very difficult in this economic downturn to find developers or business that are interested in the property but we will continue to aggressively market this land.
As we enter into fiscal year 2013, we continue to try and hold costs wherever possible. The Town of Haverstraw tax remains the lowest in Rockland County. Our sewer tax may be the lowest in the Hudson Valley. We continue to seek to offset local taxes through federal, state and private grants. I have listed below the three main reasons for the increase in Town tax for 2013.
New York State Mandated Increase
Police Retirement $300,000
Employee Retirement $167,000
Health Insurance $300,000
Rockland County Increases
Rockland County Loss of Reimbursements $400,000
RC College Chargebacks $125,000
RC Election Costs $150,000
Police Budget Police Cost $550,000
(Includes all Police costs: Salaries, benefits Overtime, etc.)
Total NY State, Rockland County & Police Increases: $1,992,000
Therefore, before the Town Board and I began to review any other expenses in the 2013 budget, we were faced with a $1,992,000 increase. To give a better indication of what this means, the 2 percent tax cap would have allowed us to increase the budget by $601,200. The increases alone from the state exceed this. In addition, the increases from the county exceed this and the increases in our police budget nearly exceed this. Without these costs, the rest of the budget would have been a 1.95 percent tax increase.
In addition, through attrition, we have reduced the size of the town police force by five officers. We have gone from 73 officers to 68. However, the Town of Haverstraw police overtime has risen in the last three years from approximately $1 million to $1.5 million, a $500,000 increase. Over 60 percent of our general fund budget is police costs. Our officers through the leadership of Chief Charles Miller have demonstrated their commitment and unfailing dedication to the people of Haverstraw. What the Town Board members and I are concerned with is the unsustainable cost of police protection in our town and in Rockland County.
We continue to request that the state amend binding arbitration as well as the 207c (line of duty injury) payment and return policies. Currently, there is no incentive for officers to return to work as soon as possible under state laws.
Beginning in 2012, we entered into extensive and prolonged negotiations with GenOn Corp. the own the power plants known as Bowline 1 & 2. Previously, in the State of the Town Message and in newsletters as well as articles in the Journal News, we have informed the public of the continuing lawsuit that GenOn, formerly Mirant, has filed against the town each year for the last four years. Most residents will recall that in 2006 State Supreme Court Judge Dickerson set the assessment for these power plants at a value of approximately $380 million.
The first time a challenge to the value could be contested was in 2009. The owner at the time, Mirant, filed for a 94 percent reduction in 2009, and a 97 percent reduction for 2010, 11 & 12. During the same time the town assessor reduced the value of the power plants by 50 percent. GenOn/Mirant believed that this reduction was not sufficient. (No other property owner has seen a 50 percent reduction during this time within the Town of Haverstraw.) In mid-December of 2012, we believed we had reached a settlement agreement. Unfortunately, at the same time GenOn Corp. was acquired by NRG Corp.
As of today, the status of the negotiations are unclear. It is yet to be determined if NRG Corp. wishes to construct a new state-of-the-art power plant which GenOn applied to the State to construct and which the Town Board supported. As soon as we hear from NRG, the new owners, we will be informing the public of the status of this lawsuit. I think it is important that our residents realize that we are now on the fifth owner of these plants since New York State passed deregulation of the power producing industry.
Due to the recent Hurricane Sandy, the town sustained considerable damage along the riverfront and other areas of the town. We have been working closely with FEMA to secure funds to repair the damage. Last year when Hurricane Irene struck, we were able to secure from FEMA reimbursement of $193,000 for damage to town property.
The Town Board and I have maintained the same number of staff at Town Hall since 1981. We continue to be successful in securing grants although the availability of grants has been greatly diminished in these challenging economic times. We have pledged and promised to continue to provide excellent Town government and services at the lowest possible cost.
The Town of Haverstraw’s Independent Auditors issued an exemplary audit report. Our finances remain in excellent order and we currently have an exceptional bond rating of Aa3 from Moody’s Investors Services.
I would like to express our gratitude to Congresswoman Nita Lowey who continues to fight for the rights of senior citizens and our residents and ensures that we have outstanding representation in Washington, D.C. In addition, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to Senator William Larkin who although officially did not begin to represent the Town of Haverstraw until January 1 of this year, he immersed himself in all of the Town’s concerns in 2012 and was of great assistance in dealing with all the state agencies. Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski continues to play an instrumental part for the Town of Haverstraw having a strong voice in Albany. His assistance with grants and capital projects has been invaluable.
I would like to also compliment the constant cooperation that the Town and the Villages of Haverstraw, West Haverstraw and Pomona have demonstrated. special thanks to Mayors Kohut, Ramundo and Yagel and their boards for their assistance. We continue to have strong representation through Legislators Grant and Hood whose constant communication and consultation has been of great service. It is also important to recognize the progressive and innovative work of our District Attorney, Thomas Zugibe and Sheriff Lou Falco. They have demonstrated their commitment to the people of Haverstraw and Rockland County through their action and vision. We have also been well-served by the dedicated support and unwavering backing of our Country Clerk, Paul Piperato.
It is most important that I commend all of the elected officials, department heads, and employees of the Town of Haverstraw who continue to work hard doing more with less serving our Town and residents. Let us hope that with God’s assistance 2013 will bring better times and more unity in our county. May God Bless and protect all the men and women in our armed services and all the people of our great nation.