Kingston residents would see their tax rate stay the same under the mayor’s proposed 2021 budget. Mayor Steve Noble says that despite tough fiscal impacts from the coronavirus pandemic, the city is able to make do.
Democratic Kingston Mayor Steve Noble released a virtual budget address Friday. The brief address highlights how the city has assisted its residents during the pandemic. The tag line is “Clearer. Bolder. Better.”
“With serious projected cuts in state aid and other revenues diminishing, communities across New York are struggling with how to manage this financial impact of this global pandemic, and Kingston is no exception,” says Noble. “However, we have been preparing for this moment for a long time. Over the last few years, we have made sound financial decisions, like paying down high interest short-term debt, and closely monitoring our revenues and expenses. We will weather this storm because we were prepared for it.”
The video was pre-taped inside City Hall. Noble proposes a $43.1 million budget.
“No tax increases for the sixth year in a row,” Noble says. “No layoffs of city staff; a $1.3 million cut to our city spending while meeting the increased need for services.”
Noble took advantage of the video presentation to introduce various city employees, who talk about their jobs and departments. One speaks from an indoor basketball court. Another, from a city firehouse. Each day leading up to the Friday address, the mayor’s office released a preview of key areas of investment in the budget recommendations, areas highlighted by the city workers in the video.
“Because it’s a time when our children our struggling to understand why the world is changing, we need to invest in safe, clean parks and community centers for them to play,” Noble says. “At a time when our city is looking for way to grow and develop our local economy, we need to invest in our infrastructure.”
One area is Parks and Recreation, with major capital improvements and additional park and trail maintenance proposed. Some of the recommended projects include a refurbished pavilion at Hutton Park; a new soccer field, playground and parking lot at Kingston Point Park; renovations at Andretta Pool including a new Splash Pad; and Hodge Center parking lot repairs and landscaping.
The second key area of investment is infrastructure, capital projects and equipment purchases. Noble’s budget proposes equipping the police department with a new interview camera system; the Waste Water Treatment Plant with new flow-recording equipment; and the Department of Public Works with a street sweeper and more. Sewer and storm water sewer systems repairs in Midtown Kingston are on tap as are continued paving projects, Dietz Stadium facility improvements, Midtown parking lot improvements and the purchase of hybrid electric vehicles for the Police and Building Safety Departments.
“At a time when too many of our neighbors are struggling with housing insecurity, we need to rebuild our vacant homes and move forward policies that protect our existing residents,” Noble says. “And at a time when we are working together to envision changes to our public safety system, we need to listen to our community and invest in what they need.”
Social infrastructure makes up the third area of budget recommendations. The proposed budget allocates $100,000 to fund recommendations to come from the Re-envision Public Safety Task Force. These funds would allow for the expansion of mental health services, and could include mobile health units. The task force resulted from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s June executive order, New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. It requires local police agencies to develop a plan that modernizes police strategies and programs based on community input by April 2021. There will be a Common Council public hearing on the proposed budget October 23.