Binghamton Mayor Rich David unveiled his 2022 Budget last week, a financial plan that the next mayor will inherit.
As usual, Mayor David’s final Budget Address was full of political soundbites and rosy rhetoric, intentionally directing the gaze of the media exactly where he wanted.
Here are four key takeaways, unpreported by the local press, that Mayor David did not want the public to fully understand.
#1: Police Department Budget jumps more than one million dollars (from $12.58 M to $13.6 M), which is 8%.
So much for “re-imagining” community safety. And just to be clear, this does NOT include the cost of benefits—health insurance, social security, pension, workers compensation, etc—so it doesn’t represent the true cost of a broken approach that criminalizes social ills and relies exclusively on law enforcement to address. The growth of the police budget under Mayor David has been astronomical, and outpaces all other departments by far.
And despite all the talk by Mayor David about how the department was gutted by the prior administration, the truth is that under David’s leadership the police department has been chronically understaffed because of transfers and early retirements that want out from current leadership. For example, although Mayor David touts he’s added 12 positions since taking office, his 2022 budget acknowledges that 11 positions in the department are vacant and one position (Assistant Police Chief) is proposed to be unfunded and eliminated.
#2: Starting to See the Impacts of David’s Great Flush at the JSTP: It’s Shitty.
The 2022 budget states that sewer rates will be going up for Binghamton users at least 13% in the Spring of 2022. Mayor David approved this, but nobody will blame him. This is an intentional and sly (slimy?) move by Mayor David that will put the “blame” on the new mayor as he trots around the area for his NYS Senate Campaign.
Also, the debt that Binghamton sewer ratepayers need to pay off has skyrocketed. A review of approved budgets over the last ten years show the following debt payments for the sewage treatment plant:
- 2012: $3,200,000
- 2017: $5,500,000
- 2022: $9,700,000
Who knows what the future will bring, as there are tens of millions of debt payments that, wrapped up in court, could fall to the users.
#3: Owner of Rumble Ponies Hits Jackpot: Taxpayers Footing the Bill (Again).
In the 2022 Capital Budget, Mayor David is asking the Council for approval to borrow $2.75 million dollars for baseball stadium improvements. Apparently, the more than $5 M that local and state taxpayers have already dumped into this “public-private partnership” isn’t enough. I don’t think this was mentioned in Mayor’s 2022 Budget Address, but I can’t verify, because unlike prior years, he has yet to post his Address on the City website. Almost like he wants to keep this quiet. Maybe Council can finally negotiate some public benefit from the massive investment the taxpayers have made into this asset. For ideas, see my December 2018 op-ed, published in the local newspaper, here.
#4: New Approach to Management of Ely Golf Course is Costing Taxpayers (as predicted).
Under the last administration, a decision was made in partnership with City Council to stop using Parks staff to manage the golf course, and instead invite private vendors to bid for the opportunity to “manage the course and make money.”
Bidders had to pay the City a flat annual fee for the opportunity to manage the course and pocket whatever revenue they generate (with certain rules and guidelines in place). In effect, it moved the risk from taxpayers to private management vendors, which made sense given this was not a “public service” available to all but a “commodity” purchased by users.
Under that approach, for example, in 2014 the City booked $65,000 in revenue from the annual fee and incurred about $40,000 in expenses, resulting in a net positive for taxpayers.
In 2021, Mayor David and Council changed the approach, and the City is now paying a private company to manage the course. Under this approach, if the course loses money, taxpayers are on the hook to cover the loss. If the course makes money, the surplus goes into the golf fund for future expenses at the course.
Only one year in and the approach does not look promising.
According to the 2022 Budget, taxpayers are being asked to (a) fund $350,000 for capital improvements and (b) pay a private firm almost half a million to manage the course. And just to make the budget work, David needs to bill local taxpayers for an additional $127,000.
So we went from an approach that was net positive for taxpayers to one that bills the taxpayers for almost a million dollars—and that’s year one!
Worse, it appears the administration used artificially inflated numbers for anticipated revenues from greens fees and cart rental fees, which means the taxpayer liability will likely be even higher at the end of the year.
Conclusion? Taxpayers are getting soaked to improve an exclusive asset that only individuals with money can enjoy.
And that’s par for course with this Mayor