Protestors Gather Outside Beacon Mayor’s Home

Beacon protestors

Protestors, including Justice McCray of Beacon 4 Black Lives, gathered outside the home of Mayor Lee Kyriacou on Monday (Oct. 19). (Photo by Natasha Scully)

But city says police funding increase not what it seems

About 25 demonstrators gathered outside the home of Beacon Mayor Lee Kyriacou on Monday (Oct. 19), while the mayor conducted a City Council meeting by videoconference inside, shouting and chanting their displeasure with a perceived increase to the Police Department budget. 

The mayor’s 2021 funding proposal, which was introduced to the City Council on Oct. 5, includes about $5.9 million for the department, which is $352,000 (6 percent) more than last year. 

However, during the council meeting, City Administrator Anthony Ruggiero said the 2020 budget did not include current salary figures for police officers because the city was negotiating a contract with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the police officers’ union. The budget was adopted in December, while the PBA contract was adopted in January and expires at the end of 2021. 

Because of the negotiations, “when we put the [2020] budget together, it was based off 2018 salaries,” Ruggiero said. 

Susan Tucker, the city’s finance director, said: “I’m not putting increases into the salary lines until a contract is settled,” noting that the anticipated spending was included in the 2020 budget in a contingency fund. 

Protestors gathered outside the home of Mayor Lee Kyriacou on Monday (Oct. 19). (Photo by Natasha Scully)

If the proposed 2021 budget is adopted, spending on the Police Department would represent 26 percent of the city’s general-fund spending. (The water and sewer funds, which would have 2 percent increases, are budgeted separately.)

The council for the next several weeks will meet virtually with department heads to discuss budget needs; police and fire are scheduled for Monday (Oct. 26). 

Ruggiero said on Tuesday that he would bring figures to that meeting to show what the 2020 police budget would be had it used salary figures from the current PBA contract. 

An hour before that discussion, several people called in to the meeting while standing outside the mayor’s home, where the protestors were chanting and calling for Kyriacou to resign. During a 30-minute public comment period, 16 callers voiced their displeasure with the budget.

“Where have you been? Where is your mind at? Where is your heart at?” asked Ben Wills. “We’re your community; we need a government that represents what we want, that represents our needs.”

Callers said the proposal was a slap in the face after months of protesting following the death in May of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. 

“It is almost beyond imagination at a time such as this that you would conceive of increasing the police budget,” said Matt Casey. “It is the exact opposite of what the community is asking you to do.”

Salaries aren’t the only component of the police budget established by contract. 

Kyriacou’s 2021 proposal includes an increase of nearly $77,000 in police pension costs that are calculated using a state formula based on salaries. In addition, the union contract calls for a minimum of four officers — a sergeant, front-desk officer and two patrol officers, along with the chief and a lieutenant — on duty for each shift, other than the overnight shift, which requires additional officers. 

If the city were to downsize the Police Department, the contract’s per-shift requirement would not change, and the remaining officers would have to work overtime to meet the requirement, Kyriacou explained. 

beacon officers

Beacon police officers watch the protest outside the mayor’s home. (Photo by Natasha Scully)

“Our ability to affect staffing in the Police Department is affected by collective bargaining,” he said. “Right now, if we are to reduce staffing, it will simply increase 150 percent in terms of overtime.”

The proposed budget does eliminate the department’s K-9 program — the officer will stay but the dog will not. 

Several callers Monday night criticized Kyriacou for other elements of the budget, including the decision to not raise taxes to the maximum allowed under a state tax cap and a $25,000 reduction from last year in the Recreation Department’s budget. 

The recreation decrease, Ruggiero said, is due to the city not hiring as many after school counselors as it typically would because of the pandemic shutdown. There are no cuts in the department’s services or programming, he said. 

Kyriacou addressed taxation during the meeting, calling property tax “one of the most regressive taxes we have.” Because buildings with more than three apartments are considered commercial properties, rather than residential, they are taxed at a 30 percent higher rate, he said. 

“In the current real-estate market, with low vacancy rates, any tax increase is fully passed along to renters,” the mayor said. “It’s one of the reasons to be careful. Some people can say ‘I’m happy to pay additional tax,’ and I’m one of those people, but you meet people on fixed income, especially seniors. People of fixed income are hit in exactly the same way as people of substantial means. We end up losing people for that reason. It’s not that straightforward.”

After meeting with the fire and police departments on Monday, the City Council is scheduled to confer with the heads of the highway, water and sewer departments on Nov. 12. A public hearing on the budget will take place Nov. 16. The council must adopt the budget before Dec. 31, although the vote has historically been earlier in December. 

On Monday, Council Member Terry Nelson asked residents for patience.

“I know there’s a lot of frustration,” he said. “This [budget] process is a very tedious one. Think of it as a family road trip. You’re figuring out what to take with you, and along the way you’re going to take things out and remove things that are not necessary. Be patient. This is going to take a while but we’re going to get there.”

10 thoughts on “Protestors Gather Outside Beacon Mayor’s Home

  1. I’m betting the callers who wanted the taxes raised to the maximum don’t own any real estate in Beacon. I am happy the mayor is proposing to hold the line on taxes, though a reduction would be welcome. As for the police budget, just because some people protested to cut their budget (don’t understand why — I do like to be protected), they only represent a small part of the Beacon population. A couple of hundred people marching in a small city of 15,000 shouldn’t be considered a majority of the taxpayers.

  2. The good news is, anyone wanting to pay higher taxes can. Just pay the extra money that you want and the city will thank you, and so will I.

  3. “The people”? Last time I checked it was still “we the people.” Twenty-five people do not speak for an entire city! There are plenty, including myself, who are tired of the traffic delays and police overtime for the protection of the few “we’s” that protest every weekend.

    There are plenty of us who actually know facts. The biggest one no one seems to know is that everything that is what these places across the country are adopting has been policies of the Beacon Police Department for 12+ years! It’s an accredited agency. Through grant-writing and dedication, it has remained at the forefront with the technology to be able to show transparency, and it was one of the first agencies in the area that had any cameras in vehicles and one of the first to adopt body cameras.

    There are plenty of us who don’t want to keep seeing officers leave like a revolving door. That’s expensive. There are 25 people being protected in that photo by three members of the Beacon PD. That is the exact number that is on the road 24/7 to serve and protect the entire city of Beacon. That’s perspective! No agency will be perfect ever but right now if Beacon could keep staffing where it needs to be the city would be in pretty good shape.

    There are a lot of really good dedicated people working for Beacon PD. Factually when it comes to procedures, policies and incident documentation/accountability Beacon is so much further ahead than the New York State Police, which should be the standard-bearing agency when the governor calls for so much “reform.” The people should be wondering why they do not have any vehicle or body cameras? The state won’t fund it. To make a difference call out your state representatives and governor to find out why they are not funding the agencies they control to the expectations in place here for years already.

    Knowing the facts is not what you see on TV! Educate the citizens and those who are so concerned should see things differently. Facts on actions already taken is what many do not know.

    • In June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo enacted legislation that requires State Police patrol officers to wear body cameras. It passed in the Senate 61-1 and in the Assembly 142-2.

      • I understand and respect your attempt to put forth what is believed to be “factual information” to your readers. My letter was specifically pointing out that the governor put forth standards and regulations he wants all agencies to meet the requirements of by April 2021. There are no changes slated for the New York State Police, though. Our troopers are very dedicated and professional. They are limited in technological and other changes based on the state’s extremely poor history of funding programs. It took a decade to update their duty weapons which were considered “ineffective” in life-and-death situations. The same took place with adopting carrying non-lethal Tasers as a tool to lower police shootings and protect both the troopers and subject they are dealing with from suffering serious injuries.

        The number of Tasers currently in use is 1 for every six to eight troopers working at any given time. They do not even have a standardized complaint form but instead tell citizens to e-mail as much about an incident as possible.

        There has been nothing done to even start the long, drawn-out process of getting body cameras. New York State Police are also exempt from the requirements placed on all other law-enforcement agencies in New York state. My intent was to draw attention to these issues that few are aware of.

  4. New York State will be pandering to a small group of Black Lives Matter protesters as long as the Socialists run the place. Get used to it. They don’t care about you.

  5. They hated Mayor Randy Casale, who helped develop a thriving Beacon. Now they hate Mayor Lee Kyriacou. They don’t know what they want. [via Facebook]

  6. You reported that the proposed Beacon budget would eliminate the Police Department’s canine program — the officer will stay but the dog will not. Now, there’s a great decision. In order to satisfy people and say you cut costs, get rid of probably one of the lowest-cost services with the greatest impact.

    Is there a separation agreement for the dog? After all, it’s employed by the department. I hope the city is forced to support the dog during its life. [via Facebook]