Last Tuesday, Feb. 19, Democrat Camilo Bunyi, 62, was confirmed as the new city administrator of the City of Poughkeepsie. Mayor John Tkazyik, a Republican, voted to confirm his appointment after the Common Council vote resulted in a tie (4-4).
“Mr. Bunyi has served our City with distinction,” wrote Tkazyik in an emailed statement. “He will be a great asset to the City, his knowledge and experience will serve the City well. He is very driven and dedicated to the taxpayers and is willing to work with them in solving any issues that arise. He is also wonderful at management and administrative tasks and will be the perfect fit for this position.”
Bunyi was understandably pleased with the result of the close vote. “Anytime that you go for confirmation before the Council or any board, there is always the unknown, the unpredictable angle that board members will come from,” said Bunyi. “I don’t question the rationale behind every board member’s decision and their vote, but I am very glad that the Mayor decided to break the tie and vote in favor of me.”
Bunyi has served as the City of Poughkeepsie’s finance commissioner since 2008; he plans to apply his past experience to his new position. “From the Finance Department, you can see all the different departments in terms of spending, its resources, its needs and assets,” noted Bunyi. “That equips you with a knowledge and background to be able to address the overall needs of the city… When the opening arose, I had a pretty good idea of what I felt the city needed to be able to stabilize its financial resources.”
Prior to the vote, numerous city residents expressed their support of Bunyi at a council meeting in City Hall. However, the decision to confirm Bunyi’s appointment was not without contention. According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, constituents of a member of Common Council “questioned Bunyi’s performance as finance commissioner based on the recent downgrade in the city’s credit rating from A2 to Baa2 by Moody’s Investors Service” (“Bunyi gets city administrator job despite dissent,” 2.21.13).
In response to these criticisms, Bunyi points to the heavy debt load of the city as a factor in the credit rating. “The Moody’s is basically based on several things that Moody determined,” explained Bunyi. “Number one, we still have a very heavy debt load–50 million dollars, which is bigger than the general operating budget of the city. That is something that really I inherited and the Mayor inherited.” Bunyi has mentioned the fact that the City administration reduced the debt from $82 million in 2008 to its current amount (The Poughkeepsie Journal). “They [Moody’s] still consider that to be a very heavy debt load, and we are continuing to work on that,” said Bunyi.
Additionally, Bunyi mentions that the city is experiencing a challenging tax base. “The only thing that will fix it is the rebound of the housing market, which is starting to come… We have projects and developments coming up in the next few years that will solidify the tax base.”
Bunyi explains, “The city has what they call a structurally imbalanced financial situation, and what that means primarily is that the government as a whole [does budgeting] in such a way that first we address the expenditures, and the services that we want to deliver, and then we come up with the revenues. Unfortunately, then, the expenditures are continually more than the revenues.”
He continued, “For 2013, we decided to come up with a maximum revenue [amount] that we can generate, and then, basically determine what services we can provide based on the revenue… It’s not the government way, but it’s the right way.”
Other critics include members of the Civil Service Employees Assocation (CSEA), which has accused Bunyi of having a hostile attitude toward the union. Bunyi counters that his first responsibility is to the taxpayers. “My position on addressing the health industry and retirement costs and overall labor costs is considered by some members of the labor organizations as being hostile… The current labor groups that we have [do] not contribute as much to health insurance as the regular private industry… The retirement of a municipal worker is guaranteed. It is not a 401(k). We have to make adjustments.”
He continued, “As a city resident, I am committed to protecting the city’s taxes and the taxpayers of the city. Being the financial commissioner, I am able to see the amount of commitment that the taxpayers commit to the city to make it run. I am able to look at the whole operation of the city– look in terms of how we can be more responsible… [Taxpayers] put money into the city as an investor to make the city run.”