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I am again proud to share with you the results that I and your Cicero Town Team have accomplished on your behalf in 2018. We again met the challenges we faced without hesitation and resolved them with the community’s best interests in mind.
AA Credit rating
In 2015, the Town Comptroller stated publicly that the Town would not be able to pay its bills by 2019 unless it made some significant changes. We did. I am proud to tell you that, for the second consecutive year, Standard & Poor has awarded the Town of Cicero an AA credit rating. This (according to S&P), puts Cicero into the “elite” category of Towns. Sound fiscal policy and strong fiscal management were the drivers in securing this rating.
2019 Budget and Financial Status
Our overall budget came in with a 4.11 % increase, or an increase of $2.33 per month on a home valued at $100,000. The main drivers of the increase were payments on the balance of the Highway Garage Bond (4.9 million dollars) and the increase in the Fire Protection contracts.
As you may remember, our fire departments must pay for the unfunded state-mandated Firefighter Cancer Insurance in 2019. We are offsetting this increase with a rebate to all homeowners who receive Town-provided trash pickup (excluding commercial customers and North Syracuse Village residents). A rebate of about $37.00 (or $3.08 per month) will be credited to all households receiving Town-provided trash pickup on the 2019 Town tax bill. This means that many homeowners will either not have an increase in 2019, have a reduction from 2018, or receive a modest increase in 2019 at most.
We have reduced the Town’s annual operating expenses by over $350,000 per year in just three years. Savings were achieved in part by the increased use of automation, internal process improvement, the elimination of a full-time position, dramatically reduced costs due to our Safety Program, and changing to less expensive vendors. Our fund balance continues to remain strong for the 2nd consecutive year.
You may recall that on May 10th, Feher Rubbish Removal closed its doors. I received a call from Feher at 2:10 PM that day. At 2:30 PM, knowing that we weren’t the only town affected, I was on the phone with every trash hauler from here to Rochester and in negotiations through the weekend. On Monday, May 14th, Syracuse Hauler trucks were rolling in Cicero. We negotiated a contract at the same rate that we had had one year earlier. I am proud that we averted a potential public health crises and am very proud of that achievement.
Cicero was listed among top 50 safest cities in NY and the Best places in Upstate New York for Young Adults
Safe City: We were rated among the top 3 safest cities in New York with populations over 25,000. The top 3. Full details were published on our Facebook page earlier in 2018. That speaks volumes for our police, our citizens, and the quality of life we enjoy.
Best place in Upstate NY for Young Adults: We ranked number 12 out of 50, and number 2 in Onondaga County. We are proud to receive that acknowledgment. This also was published with full details on our Facebook page in 2018
Expanded Transparency – Resident communications
We have expanded use of Facebook (www.facebook.com/TownOfCiceroNewYork) and Nextdoor (nextdoor.com/agency-detail/ny/cicero/town-of-cicero), as well as the Town’s website (www.ciceronewyork.net) to enhance transparency and the flow of information to our residents. We also installed a new meeting recording system that allows anyone to listen to Town meetings anytime and can be accessed through our web site.
We are especially pleased to see that subscriptions to our communications options above have increased overall by 19% in 2018. That increase is our confirmation that you, the residents, are interested in Cicero and want this information. We continue to encourage residents to enjoy one or more of our communications avenues (Facebook, Nextdoor, website) to stay abreast of Town activities and issues. Of course, I will always reply to your email or phone call.
You will remember that our existing highway garage bordered on being condemned by structural engineers when examined over two years ago. We responded with the new garage project and by shoring up our existing building to carry us until the new garage has been completed.
On the new garage site, one will see that steel is being erected. The engineers tell us that we will be ready for occupancy by spring of 2020. Unfortunately, the public referendum put us behind one year on the construction and that extra year increased the cost of the project by 1.4 million dollars. That increase was due to the increased cost of steel, materials, and labor.
Our plan is to pay cash and to make up the difference from our fund balance over a two-year period. This facility will provide a safe, environmentally-friendly home for our Highway Department Team Members and protection from the elements for all of our Highway equipment. It will support Cicero’s growth today, and well into this century.
We have also been in negotiations for the last two years with National Grid. They want to purchase the existing Highway garage property for use in the planned upgrade to the power grid in 2019 and 2020. Any deal that is agreed to will include National Grid tearing down the existing garage at their expense. We’ll have more news as it becomes available.
Police Department Building
We moved our Police Department from a dilapidated double-wide trailer behind Town Hall to a completely renovated building at 6200 State Route 31. This building was purchased substantially under market value and I was able to secure State funds that paid all but $50,000 of the $475,000 purchase price. Its central location provides better visibility to the public and faster response times to more areas of the town. It also provides a cleaner and safer environment for our officers. We are proud of our Police department and we can all be proud of their new home.
New Court Facility
The Town of Cicero is not compliant with New York State Law regarding adequate facilities for our Judges, attorneys, and defendants. Our existing Town Hall is out of room and no longer meets the State mandate. Our plan was to either put an addition on Town Hall or build a new, suitable facility on Town Property using funds from our Fund Balance. Unfortunately, that project will be delayed at least two years due to the expected diversion of Fund Balance dollars to cover the Highway Garage’s increased cost.
The Town of Cicero has been a leader in addressing the environmental issues caused by clean water infiltration into our sewer system (inflow & infiltration). Specifically, fresh water enters our old sewer pipes which causes serious capacity issues with the County’s sewer plants.
In the three years that I have been Supervisor, we have removed 15.77 million gallons of fresh water from our sewer system and have spent $475,000 in repairs. Our plan is to remove an additional 7 million gallons of fresh water in 2019 and spend an additional $492,000 in repairs. We have been very aggressive in securing outside funds for this project and mandating offsets with new development. We will utilize grants of $270,000 from the County, $72,500 from New York State, and the balance from our offset fund to pay for these improvements.
We continue to focus on our seniors and their well-being. Involvement and membership of our seniors continues to increase as they enjoy the activities of our Senior Center and staff. This year, we partnered with Loretto and Driver’s Village as we hosted our first Senior Health and Fitness Fair last May 30th. We focused on senior services and providers locally. We had a great turn out and we’ll look to do this again in 2019. We also brought additional and affordable housing to our seniors with the addition of Spring Village, a 12.8 million dollar project located in Cicero Commons. Developed by CDS Housing, Spring Village will provide 50 energy-efficient apartments for adults 55 and over. Ten apartments will be reserved for individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities. It will open in 2019.
You might remember that Cicero instituted a world class health and safety program in 2016 (www.ciceronewyork.net/2017safetyaward/). This comprehensive program not only significantly reduced Town injuries and accidents, it also reduced the Town’s compensation premium by $79,000 in 2018 with further reductions expected in 2019. The Town of Cicero is now viewed as the model for health and safety programs state wide.
Working with the State of New York, we had sidewalks installed on Route 11 from Bear Road to approximately 200 feet north of Caughdenoy Road. Our goal is to keep pedestrians in our business district out of traffic and keep them safe. With additional secured State funds, it is our intention to install additional sidewalks on Rte. 31 from Cicero-North Syracuse High School east to the Thompson/Torchwood intersection in 2019. Again, the goal is to keep our children out of the roadway. We are in the process of having high intensity LED lighting installed on Rte. 11 and in all of our overhead lighting district neighborhoods by early 2019. This will not only enhance night-time safety but will reduce the Town’s carbon footprint and reduce the electric costs significantly to residents.
We have been working arm in arm with NYS DOT (Department of Transportation) and Onondaga County DOT to complete joint projects that benefit Cicero residents. We worked with NYS DOT to install the first ‘Mini Traffic Circle’ or roundabout at Rte. 298 and Rte. 31 in Bridgeport. These roundabouts move traffic safely and quickly per NYS DOT.
NYS DOT will also install turn lanes in 2019 at the Thompson/Torchwood intersections. They are long overdue but will happen next year. In 2020, the Rte. 81, Rte. 31, and Rte. 11 traffic problems will be studied and solutions will be proposed.
Meanwhile, we secured a $250,000 grant from Onondaga County DOT to perform a two-year traffic study of the Rte. 11 corridor. The goal is to reduce the traffic on Rte. 11 and possibly re- route traffic to an as yet to be constructed road that will run behind Walmart north and parallel Rte. 81. We’ll have more information when the County completes their study.
Expanding Our Tax base – Economic Development
My goal was to expand our tax base to relieve the tax burden on our homeowners.
A secondary goal was to make Cicero the most business friendly Town in Central New York by reducing the red tape and streamlining the process for locating or expanding a business. We have accomplished this while balancing quality of life issues. In 2018 we were able to attract:
· Enterprise Rent-A-Car
· Nice & Easy Convenience Store
· NYS Lineman Safety Training Center
· Builders Choice
· J & J Equipment
· Preferred Power Sports
· Vicinos Brick & Brew
· Camping World
· Helping Hounds
· Five Star Equipment
· Miller Road Apartments
· Spring Village Senior Housing
· Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists
We have many more projects in the works for 2019.
Don’t forget that we brought the first Thursday Night Thunder event to Cicero this past July. Sponsored by the Sun Auto Group, the Town of Cicero, ESTA Safety Park Dragstrip, and the Cicero Chamber of Commerce, we sought to capitalize on the Syracuse Nationals by offering participants a place to legally drag race, show their cars, and participate in a burnout contest. Based upon the success of the inaugural event, we hope to repeat this event in 2019.
Automation – Information Services
Our commitment to automation was further demonstrated by adding automated dog licensing to our portfolio. Now, you can both pay your taxes and license your dog online.
We also completed a technology assessment and implemented a breach notification policy along with a business impact assessment. The protection of your personal information is our priority.
We will finally acquire the two empty lots adjacent to Riverfront Park from State DOT this year.
State DOT is processing the paperwork as I write this. The Brewerton Bridge will be replaced/rebuilt in 2020. We will have a new road structure while preserving the appearance of the existing bridge. Look for the State DOT to hold public meetings starting in 2019 to explain the project. Further enhancements to the Hamlet of Brewerton and to Riverfront Park will follow the bridgework completion.
I hope that you will agree that we’ve had a very productive third year together.
Our Town is financially strong. We have addressed the pressing needs of our Highway and Police departments. We have significantly reduced the cost of operating the town while at the same time, we have increased the quality of our services. Cicero has become one of the fastest growing and one of the most desirable Towns in Onondaga County in which to live and do business in.
It has been my honor to be your Supervisor and to serve you. Please call me, email me or come in for a face-to-face meeting if you have questions or concerns. My very best to you and your families in 2019.
Town of Cicero