Tuesday, July 21, 2009

City Manager leaves us in a lurch

The interim Newburgh City Manager is out. He no longer wants to play ball in our park. He took his jacks and $3,200 a week part-time and went home. To the other side of the river. The wealthier, more civilized, more positive side of the river.

I am sadly disappointed that he bailed. Admittedly, I didn't find his arrival too favorable at first. Maybe I was caught up in the rumors and negativity at the time. But being somewhat pragmatic, I later thought the man could do something while he was here. After all, he did weather the storm of bricks that Newburgh threw at him. Dwight Douglas, at least, had some marketable skills to bring to Newburgh. And the most important skill he had, which we will sorely miss, is his ability to write a sensible, fiscally responsible and timely municipal budget.

The Community Lyceum Group has several committees which investigate information about the city and report back to the main group monthly on Saturdays at the library. I head up the Taxes and Fiscal Management committee. During our April meeting, I made a presentation about the city's 2009 budget. I am not terribly good at numbers, but I can see a 2.8 million dollar deficit with one eye shut. And that is what I reported to the Lyceum group when I saw a revenue stream that included the sale of 2.8 million in city-owned properties being sold. There was no plan to sell any city properties. This was Jeanne McGrane's budget that the council swallowed hook, line, and sinker.

On April 24 in the Times-Herald Record, Douglas announced the same $2.8M shortfall and warned of a $1.3M deficit by the end of fiscal 2009. And that was with $2.1M being spent out of reserves. This was about the time I started to like Douglas. Not too many City Managers came forward in the past to warn of impending danger. So he was, at least doing the right thing by informing the public. He later tried to set up an auction in October to sell off some of the city-owned properties.

So the main question right now is: Who is going to write the City's 2010 budget? Some may gloat over Douglas' demise. Some say he left because Bello bit him too hard. Others say he left because he did not want to deliver the bad news that 50 plus jobs may have to be cut in the City Hall. Others say he left to save his pension from being lost. It is not about him! It is about finding an administrator to do the city's most important task: delivering a fiscally responsible plan to spend taxes to make improvements in services provided. A novel concept in Newburgh but obviously important to taxpayers and city employees.

Again, who is going to write the 2010 budget?

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