Press-Republican

October 4, 2013

Mayoral candidate says city needs to grow tax base

By JOE LoTEMPLIO Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — City of Plattsburgh mayoral candidate Chris Rosenquest says officials need to focus on bringing in more revenue to create a more sustainable long-term budget picture.

“The mayor’s job is to find these opportunities, and they do exist,” he told the Press-Republican.

Rosenquest, 38, is running as an independent third-party candidate against City Councilors James Calnon (R-Ward 4) and Mark Tiffer (D-Ward 2). He is a graduate of Plattsburgh High School who moved back here this summer from Seattle after being away for 14 years.

THREE-POINT PLAN

In a news release he put out this week, Rosenquest said he has a three-point plan that would focus on:

▶ Increasing industry and high-tech opportunities.

▶ Increasing tourism-related businesses with a focus on the waterfront.

▶ Increasing affordable residential development.

Rosenquest said it is the mayor’s job to aggressively market the city to business and industry in order to attract more jobs.

“We need to show that we have a fantastic opportunity here,” he said.

“We have a great workforce, and we are right on a beautiful lake.”

‘LEVERAGE RESOURCES’

Rosenquest suggests partnerships with SUNY Plattsburgh, the Town of Plattsburgh and the North Country Chamber of Commerce, among others, as a way of leveraging the resources of the area in order to bring in more business.

“Whatever we do in the city will impact the town, and whatever they do in the town will impact the city,” he said.

Rosenquest said creating more housing for young professionals will also be key as the area grows.

“We need to identify opportunities where we can build,” he said.

“We also have an older population that we don’t want to tax out of their homes,” he said.

‘TAX, SPEND, BORROW’

The proposed 2014 city budget put out last week by Mayor Donald Kasprzak features a 2.3 percent increase in the tax levy, which is the maximum allowed under the state tax cap. The budget plan uses $1.8 million from the fund balance, leaving it at $722,000 or 3 percent of the general fund, which is below the state recommended 5 to 10 percent.

The council has until Jan. 9, 2014, to finalize the budget.

Rosenquest said if he is elected he will keep the city budget under the tax cap.

“We’ll stay under the mandated tax cap when I’m mayor, and I’m committed to this demanding discipline, and we’ll do it in a way that preserves our quality of life without sacrificing our future,” he said in his news release.

“Rather than continuing the current ‘tax, spend and borrow from savings’ approach to managing the city’s finances, I will do what the city should have been focusing on years ago: a concerted effort and focused effort on increasing our tax base.”

‘OFFENDED’

Calnon, 64, who as mayor pro tem has served as the budget officer since 2007, said Rosenquest’s plan is not impressive.

“He figured out what just about every high-school kid in the country knows: If you increase your tax base, you help your budget,” he said.

“I am actually offended by this, and everyone who has worked on development in this city should be offended, too.”

Calnon said the city’s tax base has grown from $809 million of assessed property value to $932 million since he joined the council, for an increase of 20 percent.

“We have had development, and we’ve maintained our assessments and kept them updated,” he said.

“To suggest that he is the first person to discover this idea of increasing the tax base is just shameless self-promotion, and it makes me question whether his candidacy has any legitimacy at all.”

‘VERY DILIGENT’

Tiffer, 29, said Rosenquest’s statements about the city taxing, spending and borrowing are not accurate at all.

“This council and the mayor have stayed under the tax cap and have never exceeded it,” he said.

“We have been very diligent and worked on these budgets to be sure to balance the quality of life for our residents without sacrificing the services they deserve and want.”

Tiffer said the city has maintained affordable budgets despite having to deal with large costs mandated by the state, such as retirement-pension-fund contributions, the closure of the former Akey Landfill and arbitration rulings.

Also, health-care costs have also continued to rise each year, he said.

“A lot of these things are beyond our control, and we’ve been able to successfully manage them and our budget,” he said.

‘TAX BASE BIGGER’

Tiffer said development in the city has grown the tax base in recent years. He pointed to College Suites, a student-housing development on Broad Street at the former St. John’s Academy property, and Catherine Gardens on North Catherine Street, the former Seton Catholic School site.

“We put those two big properties on the tax rolls, and we’ve done a lot of other development as well, and we have been proactive in working with business,” he said.

He also pointed to a $26 million expansion that Bombardier Corp. undertook last year in the south end of the city.

“That is a huge investment for our city, and we worked with Bombardier to help them become more viable and grow.”

Email Joe LoTemplio:jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com