The City of Newburgh was set to adopt its 2021 budget on Monday, November 23 during its council meeting. The council has discussed the budget from October 13 when it was proposed by City Manager Joseph Donat, to up until 24 hours before the Monday meeting. During the Thursday, November 19 work session, council members were still in discussion and working out the small details.
The most notable expected revisions of the soon-to-be adopted budget include a part time records manager in the clerks department, a part time deputy police chief position, emergency response pay for superintendents of the Department of Public Works, Water Department and Engineering Department, and the removal of the salary for the introduced chief diversity officer position.
“It is a budget I recommend,” said Comptroller Todd Venning on the revisions. “But I would be weary of adding personnel costs that you don’t feel like you absolutely need.”
He described the revised budget as “very stable.”
Each proposed revision was made as a result of the discussions had between the legislative body during work sessions and council meetings.
The decision to have a deputy police chief was to help with the overtime pay, which would be saving the city money. The position will have a salary of $35,000 with no retirement or benefits. The part time records manager will have a salary of $28,000.
The proposed salary for the chief diversity officer was $97,000. While the chief diversity officer position will most likely not be funded during the budget season, putting it in the budget with no salary allows for it to be potentially funded at some point during the year with a budget transfer and amendment process. However, Venning said he does not see a mid-year budget transfer unless it is an emergency.
Though, if the council does choose to fund the position at any point, the money would come from equipment spending. During a straw poll, all council members and the mayor said that they supported what the position would do. However, the six council members said they could not support funding it at this time. Mayor Torrance Harvey was the other one in support of funding the position in the budget.
“We have some serious issues with equity, access and diversity, not only in our personnel and within the ranking files of our employees but also how things are done equitably in terms of what roads and neighborhoods get paved or sidewalks get done,” said Harvey. “There are so many things that are systemic in the City of Newburgh.”
Despite his strong opinion on funding the position at this time, it won’t be made possible unless the rest of the council has a change of heart at Monday’s council meeting.
While the other changes to the budget are being considered and most likely will go into the finalized budget, the tax levy will remain the same. The total general fund is $49,146,430 and the tax levy remains at $22,184,692. The 2021 dollar change for a $150,000 assessed value is at a decrease of $588.19 for homestead and $659.06 for non-homestead.
However, residents of Newburgh will see a rise of around 15 percent to their water rates. The ⅝ connection, based on 6,000 gallon use, will see the quarterly bill go from $38.64 to $44.58, while the ¾ connection, with a 9,000 gallon use, will see the quarterly bill go from $90.16 to $104.02.
“They are minimal increases, but increases nonetheless,” said Donat.
Quarterly metered water rates per 1,000 gallons will go from $6.44 to $7.43. When compared to neighboring municipalities, it is the lowest water rate. Middletown has a quarterly water rate of $10.21, the Village of Cornwall has a rate of $12 and the Town of Cornwall has a rate of $16.
Additionally, the City of Newburgh is seeing an increase of $500,000 to its medicare costs from a series of previous years that the budget had to be adjusted for. Venning said it was “nothing for the council to worry about.” Venning adjusted the budget so that there were no meaningful impacts somewhere else.