After attending another city council meeting on May 13, I have to ask myself what is going on. We discussed parking, photo exhibits, fireworks and signs for the school board election. I understand that these are all components of the everyday workings of our city but shouldn't we have heard more?
What about our accumulated deficit? What about the fact that it has grown from $ 6.5 million at the end of '05 to $14 million at the end of '06 to a projected $17 million at the end of '07 (remember your 2007 budget included a 27 percent property tax increase?).
Unfortunately, 2008 will prove to be another tough year for our city to balance its budget. Payroll and benefits will be about $24 to $25 million... add the debt service of $8 million and you have over $32 million of a $40 million budget being used for payroll, benefits and debt service. We are a city living on a budget that is beyond our means.
According to the city charter "the mayor shall keep the City Council fully advised as to the financial condition and future needs of our city...." No man is an island and at times one gets a feeling that the mayor is trying to cure our city's woes on his own. As much as I applaud his work ethic, utilizing the talent of those around you is a far better example of leadership than trying to do it alone. Hopefully, the appointment of MB Consulting will avail the mayor, council and residents of our city to a more current and comprehensive picture of our true financial condition. Information is knowledge and right now we could all use a little knowledge.
Forget about blame, right now that's not important. What is important is that history does not repeat itself. This problem did not happen overnight and it will not be solved overnight. There is no magic pill. Our finances should be discussed more frequently and in greater detail with progress reports given at city council meetings. Perhaps the mayor would consider appointing a bipartisan committee to review our current financial situation and make recommendations for his review. It's a problem that now belongs to all of us. It's a problem that we should all want to help resolve. After all, we don't want our golf course to be the next asset removed from our books!
The TOB's plans to develop the under-utilized Tappen Beach are long overdue. The TOB has informed and met with established resident groups on numerous occasions. Some of these groups include North Shore Soccer Club, GWL/GH Baseball, PAL Roller Hockey, PAL Lacrosse and the North Shore Lacrosse Club. The TOB also met with various other civic and community-based groups, as well as held public meetings where they shared plans and ideas, brainstormed and responded with changes to concerns and comments. There are an overwhelming number of community members that believe this project is in the best interest of Glen Head, Glenwood Landing, Sea Cliff and Roslyn Harbor. To date the TOB has used the SEA fund (a publicly supported bond) to purchase open spaces and land, as well as to update and renovate 56 public bathroom facilities, build state of the art recreational facilities in Syosset, Bethpage and most recently a sports facility at Theodore Roosevelt Park. The SEA funds are split 50 percent to open space and parkland acquisition and 50 percent to improvements to existing parks. Yes, Tappen Beach has park facilities used by area residents, but it is clearly under-utilized.
Currently, many locally organized athletic teams cannot host games in our area. The North Shore School District fields, while made available, are largely unavailable due to the schools' own programs and field conditions. The constant use of these fields subjects them to a beating that a turf field would easily endure. The TOB has not dropped the ball, but is finally running with the ball and executing the public's desire when they clearly supported the SEA bond. This bond was established exclusively for the acquisition and protection of environmentally sensitive land, as well as the enhancement of recreational facilities. We are a small community which provides a large percentage of the town's tax revenue, but with very little available Town-owned land to develop. It is time we got what is due us.
The majority of the area to be affected, the park, playground, rink, and boater's parking, are all currently surrounded by chain link. How is new chain link more offensive? Further, the asphalt parking lot, used to capacity but [a few] times per calendar year, will go from a black mass to a turf field, far more visually appealing and clearly more beneficial to the families in our community.
A turf field will decrease maintenance and operating costs, eliminate the need to mow, irrigate and fertilize with herbicides, decreasing the water use, ground water contamination and air pollution. A uniform playing surface significantly reduces injuries which occur on mis-leveled, over-used and naturally contoured land. Geese and seagulls do not nest or land on turf fields, reducing associated health risks related to bird waste.
While the town's pursuit to acquire the Keyspan property has not been successful (to date), our pursuit to replace the whine of the turbines with the sound of our children cheering on their teams is worth everything.