RYE, N.Y. – “The state of the city of Rye is strong” going into 2013, Mayor Douglas French said before outlining five principles on which the future of the city rests in his State of the City address Wednesday night.
During a meeting of the Rye City Council, French said the government of Rye is the envy of most communities but continues to face challenges from an uncertain economy, Mother Nature and threats unknown.
This year, French said, the city must continue its focus on strong financial positions, including maintenance of its Triple A bond rating. He lauded the city’s new tax rate increase of 2.7 percent, well under the state mandated property tax levy cap.
This year, Rye will address union contracts that have been expired for years and other “fair and affordable” labor deals that look at salaries as well as health benefits, he said. Additionally, French said the city will be diligent in exploring all options to prevent a projected $2.4 million operating deficit in the next four years.
Second, French said the city needs to invest capital in the basics, “not only to prevent higher costs in the future, but to reflect the active nature of the community.” The city will continue its flood mitigation plan by testing and gauging water flows as well as focusing on retaining more water upstream of Bowman Avenue Sluice Gate. In addition, a more than $200,000 federal grant secured by the Rye YMCA will go toward pedestrian safety improvement.
The city will look to add parking to downtown — "a decades-old problem, and not a simple answer by any means, but it’s time to revisit our options,” said French.
Third, French said the city needs a renewed commitment to public safety and emergency preparedness, citing the legacies of Hurricanes Irene and Sandy as well as the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
He referenced the city’s recent discussion with residents for a Citizen Preparedness Plan to supplement its emergency awareness program. Although the city’s emergency public notification systems – nixle and reverse 911 – are effective, French said Rye will look to incorporate social media to increase public awareness of emergencies.
Fourth, French said the city needs to continue forming and retaining collaborative relationships with community partners such as the Rye Arts Center, Rye Histrocial Society, Rye Free Reading Room, Rye YMCA, Rye Town Park, Rye Nature Center and the city’s sustainability committee, as well as Sustainable Playland with its forthcoming renovations to Playland Park.
Last, French said the city needs to increase oversight and governance, referencing, among other issues, the recent scandal at the city-owned Rye Golf Club. The Rye City Council put Scott Yandrasevich, manager of the club, on leave Oct. 10 after he was accused of misappropriating funds and having a conflict of interest with the staffing agency he used at the club over the summer.
The incident at the golf club would prove to be the city’s “Madoff moment,” French said. In 2013, the city must change its structures for independent management oversight and governance “beyond just membership” and suggested a board of directors for the club. In addition, the city will be developing new financial disclosure policies.
“If we stay on this path of these five key principles, Rye’s future will continue to be bright,” said French.