Editors Note: The Peekskill Daily Voice interviewed Mayor Mary Foster on several major issues in the city in the year ahead. Part of that interview is below.
PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – In 2012, Peekskill's city government eliminated 12 positions and several employees were offered incentives to retire early.
Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster said the city has moved to merge payroll and personal finance into one department and has hired a human resources firm to replace the city’s HR staff. The consultant will cost $60,000 annually, as opposed to the department staff that currently costs $263,000.
Foster cited the state tax cap and rising state pension and insurance costs for the many cost-cutting moves made last fall.
“Those amounts have been growing in double digits for the last three years and will continue to do so for at least the next two years,” Foster said. “The state comptroller cannot say when the increases will stop, so we have to plan accordingly.”
Foster said the city could not simply allow the workforce to be reduced through normal retirement attrition and was grateful for those employees who took early retirement.
“It’s extremely unfortunate, but we were thankful that we had a number of employees who were able to take advantage of the incentive,” Foster said.
Peekskill plans to discuss hiring a city manager, a position that has been vacant for more than a year. Assistant City Manager Brian Havranek is serving as acting city manager for the time being. The new manager would join a new engineer, corporation counsel and director of planning and economic development in the new year, Foster said.
Havranek also holds the title of building inspector, which allows him to perform the tasks that were done by retiring building inspector Victor Pizella, Foster said.
“Having stability with the acting city manager is very important because you need someone with institutional knowledge of all the department functions and that understands the goals and objectives of the council in place,” Foster said.
The city will continue to work to consolidate the economic development, planning and building departments under one roof to allow them to work more closely together, Foster said.
Lt. Eric Johansen has been appointed acting Peekskill Police chief, as Chief Eugene Tumolo steps down Jan. 2. The city will decide whether to name Johansen or someone else as the permanent chief in the coming months, Foster said.
A new officer, Khalia Carter, was sworn in at the Dec. 27 Common Council meeting.