Ryan: City Financial Challenges Lay Ahead Despite Revitalization

By Leigh Dana

February 16, 2011 Updated Feb 17, 2011 at 12:08 AM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) From revitalizing downtown to smart fiscal management, Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan delivered his State of the City address Wednesday.

While many of the city's accolades were highlighted, the emphasis of the mayor's speech lies in the financial challenges that lay ahead.

In his 6th State of City Address, Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan praises his administration's proactive approach on strengthening the economy, revitalizing neighborhoods, creating jobs and helping to open 40 new businesses.

"That includes VMR Electronics, which we helped relocate to the North Side in the once vacant Landers Building," said Ryan.

Ryan says one of the city's most notable accomplishments are the three student housing projects on track to open downtown this year and in 2012. "These projects together represent more than $50 million in private investment and promise to bring in more than 670 new residents, who in turn will support our local shops and businesses."

While the city has managed to shave spending by sharing its Police Chief with Johnson City and taking a once costly golf course off its books, Binghamton's financial troubles are not out the back door yet.

Ryan said, "In fact, the coming years challenges may be greater than ever. New York State is projecting a 40% increase in the city's annual pension contributions or $2.3 million. Health insurance payments expect to spike another 15% to 18% or $1.6 million. These two increases alone represent a $3.9 million dollar projected budget gap.

"In truth, the full picture of these challenges we face will not be known until the State adopts their budgets," noted the mayor.

Ryan adds he plans to host neighborhood meetings over the next several months to explain the depth of the city's financial challenges,
what it has done about them and the next steps it expects to take.

In part of his address Wednesday, Mayor Ryan announced several new initiatives to help strengthen the city's business development and create safer neighborhoods.

He says a new Downtown Development commission will produce a blueprint for types of businesses, organizations and amenities that could mesh well downtown. The commission's work will include plans to attract and find new services to support the growing number of people living downtown.

"We need to be ahead of it. We need to be thinking about what kind of investments we want to pursue. What kind of development do we want to encourage," explained City Council Member, Sean Massey (D).

The city is also launching a Police and Neighborhood Partnership for a safer Binghamton. This will help provide neighbors with a broader understanding of the city's policing strategies, as well as give police more opportunities to hear the concerns of constituents.

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