binghamton spending through FEB 2023
#1. Lost revenue, general fund: $13,459,095
- $7,000,000: Committed to help rebuild the Boscovs parking garage, a project that includes privately-owned, market-rate luxury housing
- $2,000,000: Committed to the construction of the new fire station on Court Street
- $530,000: Used to purchase new undercover police vehicles
- $453,000: Allocated to cover expenses in other City funds, like the golf fund or parking fund
- $85,000: Used to pay firefighters premium pay for working during the pandemic
#2. Water and Sewer infrastructure: $10,800,000
#3. Affordable housing: $6,000,000
- $613,000 in ARPA funds was immediately committed to help affordable housing projects already underway by First Ward Action Council and Opportunities for Broome.
- $2,000,000 was committed to the Broome County Land Bank to acquire and rehab at least ten tax-foreclosed single-family properties into new affordable homeownership opportunities for Binghamton residents.
- $3,000,000 was promised as a subsidy to the new corporate owners of the Town and Country apartments on the North Side of Binghamton to help them fix code violations that threaten the health and safety of residents. According to comments by City officials, it is not clear whether the City is monitoring the repairs, or if these funds are actually committed. Interesting to note, this amount would have been more than enough to support a bold, community-led proposal to convert this low-income rental property into a condiminium that would grant low-income tenants a chance at owning the units and building weath, but this proposal was ignored by City officials at the time.
- The remaining $387,000 has been committed to something related to affordable housing, according to City's records, but it is not clear for what program, project, or purpose.
#4: bonus pay for essential workers: $3,019,112
#5: Fix public buildings: $1,838,631
- $1,180,000: To fund routine maintenance and repairs at the City's fire stations
- $659,000: To fix the roof of the City Council Chambers, which was damaged back in 2013. The irony is that City officials said this was a priority because they wanted to make sure Binghamton residents had a chance to attend public meetings and be engaged as citizens. Yet these same City officials never held a single community forum about ARPA; never asked citizens for ideas or insights; refuse to create a simple website that informs citizens of how ARPA funds are being used; and harass, insult, and even arrest local housing advocates who seek to hold them accountable.
#6: Public Safety: $1,630,160
- $1,000,000 to fund a variety of crime prevention and law enforcement activities. According to the Mayor's own media release and the City's report to the U.S Treasury, these funds will go to pre-existing programs, such as bike patrols and neighborhood watch groups, and be used to purchase more license plate readers and cameras to surveill (and overpolice) high crime areas. It appears these funds will also cover staffing costs at the new Southern Tier Crime Analysis Center, which now occupies the old fire garage in City Hall. Why did we build a state-of-the-art Crime Analysis Center if it needs once-in-a-lifetime recovery funds to help pay for annual operating costs, like staff?
- $267,160 was used in the City's 2023 Budget to cover salary and benefits of three firefighters and, according to a note in the approved budget, "police grant share" (unclear what this means).
- $363,000 was requested by Mayor Kraham in December 2022 to provide police officers a "retention incentive" because apparently the morale in the department remains low and vacancies continue to mount. During his presentation to City Council, Mayor Kraham provided no details about how the incentive would work. It is not clear if the incentive is being paid to all officers evenly, whether it requires them to remain with the police department for part or most of the 2023 year, or whether the incentive will be “clawed back” if the officer leaves sooner. Mayor Kraham did explain to Council that his retention plan also includes allowing officers to grow beards and get tattoos (read more here).
#7: Youth: $1,500,000
- Committed $1,000,000 to a Youth Recovery Fund, which according to Mayor Kraham will be managed by the Community Foundation and awards made through a competitive process.
- Committed $500,000 to the YWCA's $24 million project by Columbus Park that involves the former Urban League building and adjacent properties. The project will result in affordable housing and a child care facility.
#8: Broadband: $1,000,000
#9: ADMIN / IT: $715,500
#10: Code / demolition: $698,770
- $250,000 committed for demolitions, which seems odd. Every year for decades, the City has used its annual Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department to fund demolition. New York also put a whopping $300 million of new spending in the 2022/2023 budget for communities who want to address vacant and blighted buildings ($250 M for Restore NY, and another $50 M for land banks). Why spend once-in-a-lifetime recovery funds to demolish blighted properties when multiple funding sources are available to carry out this activity?
- $448,770 to fund staff related to enforcing housing and building codes: one attorney, one inspector, and parks laborers who mow lawns when private owners refuse to respond to code violations. If Mayor Kraham wants to "be tough on slumlords," then he should fund it with local tax dollars--not pandemic recovery funds. Even worse, while the intentions might be admirable, this is a seriously misguided approach--largely because it doesn't work. See why, here.