Fre­quent critic of mayor only speaker on bud­get

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Ariél Zangla azangla@free­manon­line.com ArielAtFree­man on Twit­ter

A pub­lic hear­ing on Mayor Steve Noble’s pro­posed $41.45 mil­lion bud­get for the com­ing fis­cal year drew only one speaker.

Joseph DiFalco, who has been a vo­cal critic of the Noble ad­min­is­tra­tion, told mem­bers of the Com­mon Coun­cil on Thurs­day that three days be­tween the un­veil­ing of the pro­posed bud­get and the pub­lic hear­ing was not enough time for any­one to di­gest the con­tents of the spend­ing plan. He also said there are too many po­si­tions and too much over­time in the bud­get.

As he has in the past, DiFalco said the en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tor po­si­tion in the city bud­get should be a Kingston school district job, not a lo­cal gov­ern­ment job. He said the en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tor po­si­tions were cre­ated to “ac­com­mo­date a fam­ily mem­ber.” DiFalco also said mov­ing that po­si­tion to the Forsyth Na­ture Cen­ter was “noth­ing more than a smoke­screen.”

The mayor’s wife, Julie Noble, is an en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tor for the city; and the mayor him­self, whose un­cle is long­time city Al­der­manat-Large James Noble, was an en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tor for Kingston be­fore be­com­ing mayor.

DiFalco, who is chair­man of the Ul­ster County In­de­pen­dence Party, also ques­tioned why only $500,000 was placed into a con­tin­gency fund when the city soon will be ne­go­ti­at­ing con­tracts with three of its unions. He ques­tioned whether that money was on top of the $1 mil­lion for­mer Mayor Shayne Gallo put into a con­tin­gency fund.

DiFalco’s wife, Ellen, was con­fi­den­tial sec­re­tary to Gallo, who lost a Demo­cratic pri­mary to Steve Noble in Septem­ber 2015.

Fol­low­ing the hear­ing, city Comptroller John Tuey said any money left in the con­tin­gency fund at the end of the year is au­to­mat­i­cally added to the city’s fund bal­ance, and he said the fund bal­ance is “healthy.”

James Noble said now that the pub­lic hear­ing has been held, the coun­cil’s Fi­nance and Au­dit Com­mit­tee will have a se­ries of meet­ings with city de­part­ment heads to dis­cuss their bud­gets. He said the com­mit­tee will make rec­om­men­da­tions about bud­get amend­ments, which will be voted on by the full coun­cil later this year. Af­ter the coun­cil ap­proves an amended bud­get, it goes to the mayor for his sig­na­ture or veto.

The Fi­nance and Au­dit Com­mit­tee will have its first bud­get meet­ing at 6 p.m. Mon­day at City Hall, 420 Broad­way, to dis­cuss the Kingston Po­lice De­part­ment.

The pro­posed $41.45 mil­lion city bud­get for 2017 leaves the prop­erty tax levy un­changed from the cur­rent year, while res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial tax rates are pro­jected to de­crease slightly, thanks in part to an in­crease in Kingston’s over­all as­sessed value.

Un­der the pro­posed spend­ing plan, Mayor Noble’s first since tak­ing of­fice in Jan­uary, the prop­erty tax levy would to­tal $17.65 mil­lion. That’s $185,313 be­low the state cap for Kingston.

Over­all spend­ing un­der the plan would in­crease $503,589, or 1.23 per­cent.

The home­stead, or res­i­den­tial, tax rate for 2017 is pro­posed at $10.10 per $1,000 of as­sessed prop­erty value, a de­crease of 6 cents, or 0.58 per­cent, from the 2016 level; the non­home­stead, or com­mer­cial, rate is pro­posed at $18.13, a de­crease of 18 cents, or 0.98 per­cent.

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