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Foster: Albany's Negligence Forced Peekskill Cuts

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. ? Mayor Mary Foster and the Peekskill Common Council lay the blame squarely on Albany for a proposed 2013 municipal budget that calls for eliminating 31  full-time positions from the city payroll. Seven of those positions are already vacant.

The state's failure to rein in skyrocketing pension costs and provide relief from unfunded mandates have placed a huge burden on Peekskill's budget , the mayor said. The city will have to make a $4.4 million pension payment in 2013, double the amount of 2010's payment, Foster said. In 2014, she said, payments to the state pension fund are projected to be $5 million.

"Albany operates as if municipalities are ATM machines that endlessly dispense local cash to cover their failure to control costs,” Foster said.

The city has been collecting about $50 million in revenues in recent years despite the recession, Foster said. However, Peekskill’s pension payments to the state take a big bite out of those revenues, she said: For 2011 through 2013, payments will total $11.5 million, close to double the $6 million paid for 2008 through 2010.

The mayor said her administration has done its best to maintain city services while protecting taxpayers and the local workforce from these consequences by freezing management salaries, consolidating services and reducing perks and management benefits.

Deputy Mayor Drew Claxton said the city has had to make difficult choices and regrets that workers will be laid off.

“The members of our local workforce are a vital part of our community,” Claxton said. “These workers are our neighbors, our colleagues and our friends, and it infuriates me that some of them will lose their jobs because of Albany’s negligence.”

Not all residents agree that city government is doing all it can to look out for its employees, however. On Tuesday, Darrell Davis, director of Westchester Grassroots Coalition, plans to lead Housing Authority residents and Peekskill union representatives in a protest against the layoffs.

Davis said he will call for Foster’s resignation at Tuesday night’s demonstration in front of city hall, as he did at several City Council meetings earlier this year.

The mayor and council have until Dec. 1 to meet with department heads to prepare a final budget for adoption.

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