Irene Collins is the incumbent candidate for the third ward city council position. She will appear on the Democratic and Conservative party lines on election day, November 5, 2019. She faces challenger Kim Van Wormer.
Collins worked for 12 years as a deputy controller for the City of Mount Vernon where she oversaw a staff of approximately a dozen people, was involved with budget preparation, auditing departments, property auctions, checking purchase orders, and flagging expenses that were over budget limits.
She began investing in properties in Amsterdam just over 20 years ago, and after six years of commuting from Mount Vernon, she found a home on Guy Park that she liked for herself and moved here permanently.
On the issues
The candidate’s answers to five questions are listed below. The answers are in the candidate’s own words, with minor edits for clarity.
- Question: How can the city correct the problem of over-estimation of revenues and under-estimation of expenses?
Answer: In order for revenue to be estimated properly, one must review a span of at least 5 years and analyze the fluctuations year by year. Revenue should be reviewed on month to month basis with discussions and analysis of why the revenue was over or under the estimated amount for the month. After we have an understanding of the “why”, we are in a better position to adjust accordingly. There are several factors that can reduce or an increase revenue. One must review the economic factors, interest rates, market activity of the real estate properties within the city and review city services and fees that will generate revenue. A simple example, if property taxes are not being paid over a period of 2 years, the revenue drops in those 2 years. When the city begins foreclosure proceedings, taxes are paid and the revenue increases in the year the proceedings are processed. If properties are sold, we may recover all or partial of our lost revenue.
On expenses, the same principles of monitoring the monthly variances is imperative. You must understand the reason for the change up or down. Spending has to be monitored and departments must be held accountable to the budget. Purchases should be reviewed and approved prior to the order being placed. Questions should be asked, is this the best price? We should plan our purchases to avoid higher cost because “we need it now.” We must monitor, review and spend wisely. Our contracts should be placed out to bid and state contracts can be used to purchase a variety of supplies across all departments.
- Question: What are the next steps the city needs to take to correct the fund balance deficit problem?
Answer: The city is currently in the process of working with the New York State to address the issue of the deficit. Upon completion of the audit, the state should have recommendations on the financial accountability the city will be required to maintain. In the meantime, all departments should monitor their budgets carefully and review and address any variances. Open communication with the mayor, controller, and city council is critically important especially now. The entire process of getting the city in the positive will take a joint effort of all and a great deal of hard work, planning and updating the plan, monitoring of cost and accurate fiscal reporting.
- Question: Where do you currently stand on moving forward (or not) on the KCG Development residential project?
Answer: I haven’t received any official statement as to the current status of the project. If the project is to move forward, then I await the additional information for review. If the project does not move forward, the city will have the opportunity to establish a better redevelopment plan that will benefit the city.
- Question: What have been the top 3 successes for your term in the past year?
Answer: In less than a year of service as an Alderman, I have obtained an education on the workings of City Hall. I have had the opportunity to discuss and address issues with various constituents of the 3rd Ward in conjunction with working with the various city departments and other alderman to resolve issues that have arisen. I have also been able to provide procedural guidance and financial advice during council meetings.
- Question: What are your top 3 goals if elected to another term?
Answer: The financial status of the city continues to be the most important priority. We cannot move forward if there is constantly an issue about money. We must have responsible spending across the board. We must have accurate budgets and we must stay within our budgets.
Another area of concern is the blight in our neighborhoods. I was given a history tour of the 3rd ward’s most affected area. There was such sadness to witness lost homes and businesses that were once alive. These issues are being addressed throughout the City as time and money permit.
I would also advocate to have financial information, such as the city budget, on the city website for the taxpayers to review.