Frequent critic of mayor only speaker on budget
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.