EXTRA SALES TAX REVENUE MAY SAVE NEWBURGH FIREFIGHTER JOBS, FOR NOW
By Edie Johnson
At a press conference in the Newburgh City Fire Department Headquarters, County Executive, Steve Neuhaus came to give the good news that excess sales tax revenue in the amount of $3.7 M in the county budget had resulted in $536,000 for the City of Newburgh, an amount that could forestall the layoff’s of 12 firefighters that Newburgh says is essential to retaining the enhanced firefighting capabilities they have gained since grants allowed them to expand their unit after the devastation from past Superstorms. The time-limited grants have expired, and the City has funding to keep the extra men active only until this Summer. Neuhaus said the $536,000 could fund the extra men for another 6 months, through the end of 2018, while they work on other funding resources to keep them on indefinitely, and that there would still be monies left over for other Newburgh priorities. He added that the good business atmosphere in Orange County, and improvement in Newburgh, has provided these windfall funds, and that he hopes to either sit on a Newburgh Economic Development Committee, or assign a designee to do so, in order to “help the Newburgh economic engine grow as it can”. He further added that near one of the most historic sites in the United States (Washington’s Headquarters), and with its spectacular views of the Hudson River, it can offer much in the way of tourist attractions. (Neuhaus is planning to hire a new Tourism Director in the coming weeks).
City Manager, Michael Ciaravino said he was extremely grateful for the money. However, he added that as one member of the City Council, he cannot speak for his entire council so far as to commit to how much of the funding would be used for the Fire Department, saying that in fact the City has a ton of other issues including a crumbling City Hall, as well as other buildings in dire distress, and added that high taxes are also an issue. Pushed for an answer, Ciaravino said that he would indeed make a urge for a major portion of the funding to go toward keeping the firefighters, but that ultimately it is the City Council’s decision. Ciaravino and Acting Chief Terry Ahlers lamented that “Even while Newburgh’s professional firefighters were risking their lives at fires like the Verla Manufacturing Plant, they were hearing about layoffs”. He emphasized that the funding needs to be part of a long-term plan and that public safety has to remain a number 1 priority.
Steve Neuhaus “If we partner and continue to build Newburgh’s economic engine, we can make this supplemental funding permanent. This is not political, it’s a hard number of how we’re doing.”
Caption (left to right) County Executive Steve Neuhaus, Legislator Jim O’Donnell, Director of Operations Harry Porr, Legislator Kevindaryan Lujan, Newburgh City Manager Michael Ciaravino discussing long-term planning for Newburgh Economic Development, and hopes that the excess sales tax revenue and other economic measures can save the jobs of 12 Newburgh firefighters.