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The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

The Student News Site of Utica University

The Tangerine

Q&A with Mike Galime: Utica’s new mayor outlines his vision

Mike Galime, Mayor of the city of Utica. Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office.

Q: What can the city of Utica expect from you as their mayor?

They can expect someone who is ultimately reachable. Like many people who have moved here or grown up here and love the city, this is where I’m from. I became involved by running for council president eight years ago. I wanted to organize the council so it was more accessible and could function for business, students, kids and everyone who lives here. In the same way, I want the administration to reflect that.

Q: You’ve been in the local government since 2015. With a background in optical engineering and business management, why did you decide to move into city politics? 

In high school, I always read the paper and paid attention to what the government was doing. I always had the opinion that if we don’t keep tabs on who’s taking care of the structure around you, you could find yourself in a situation where you don’t like your surroundings any longer. I always had that vantage point. 

I never owned my own business, but in 2008 I had the opportunity to open an office downtown. I was part of a business network then and helped employees get parking permits, figure out where to get other resources like office supplies and internet, so I got a full-on view of knowing what it was like to be not only a resident but a professional as well. As a musician, I worked in the nightlife of downtown Utica, so I [had a view of what] 24 hours in the city was like.

I wanted my community to be successful, I wanted the government to reflect what the future of Utica is going to look like and wanted to make sure the council had a professional interface, so I took the personnel management mentality and the engineering and business mentality and applied it to the council when I ran for council president. I wanted to run for council president so that I could organize the council, structure the committees around the real needs of the city and create a working council rather than a political council. 

Q: What are some of the problems the city faces?

Right now one of the biggest is youth violence. There is a crisis and epidemic of youth finding the wrong path and our current laws and societal structure not providing any way out of a negative direction. That’s extremely important, whether that’s providing more youth sports, internships, better working relationships with the school district, our immigrant and refugee organizations and ultimately the state, county and other participating governments creating a joint solution to rally around this issue. It’s a huge priority for this administration. 

Another problem is the financial state of the city. I want to see the city in a position where, over the long-term, we’re paying for our annual operational expenses out of our operational budget. In my opinion, we are sometimes too quick to take out debt, we don’t tend to advocate in Albany for financial components of our revenue streams appropriately and that’s why for the past two months, the chief of staff and I have been in Albany multiple times. We attended the New York Conference of Mayors(NYCOM). It’s the first time in 12 years that Utica has been represented at NYCOM by the mayor. 

Q: You proposed a 16.5% property tax increase for 2025. How will that impact residents in the short and long term?

In the short term, the percentage is a lot to swallow. 

I don’t know where we’re going to be when the council is done with the budget. I don’t have a feel for what type of amendments they may try to make. I put this budget together based on what I believe is the strongest financial position to continue to provide the services the city provides. I didn’t add any services. We spent a lot of time over the last decade building up a fund balance and that fund balance took a large hit in the last 2.5 years. I would have liked to cushion the blow a little bit and spread a tax rise over the next couple of years, but unfortunately I was faced with putting the budget together that set the levy, which ended up being 16.5%. What’s not being discussed or reported much is that even with that, we still have to appropriate $2.2 million for (or of) the fund balance, which would account for another 10-11% of a tax increase as well, if I didn’t do that. It’s a shock, but if you look at our levy, it hasn’t changed in 6 years. 

It sounds insane because it’s 16.5%, but the average assessment in Utica for a residence is around $250 for the year. Throughout inflation, other municipalities and the county have been raising taxes. 

If we do this now, it allows us to adjust the levy to a point where we can sustain our fund balance which is well below the minimum recommended fund balance. When I reached out to our bond council and fiscal advisors about borrowing for a capital plan this year and getting rerated, I was concerned that our bond rating would be lowered. They looked at how I put the budget together and said we’re doing the things that need to be done to correct the problem and right the ship. Long term, this will put us back on the right track. If we have higher interest rates because of a bond rating change, which I anticipate will have one but not as bad if we take care of it right.

Q: What hobbies and interests do you pursue on the side?

I started being paid as a professional musician when I was 15; I was classically trained on the saxophone and I play the guitar. I work on cars, I’ve done a 3-angle valve job on imported heads by hand, I build watches and I’m really involved with my kids. I have a 14-year-old and a 10-year-old and try to get them involved in music, doing science projects, building and working on cars. 

Q: Where do you see yourself in 30 years? 

That’s a hard question because I’m not here because I planned on being here. In everything I’ve done, I’ve done my best until I get to a point where there’s a door or opportunity to contribute somewhere else. I don’t know what it is, but when I commit, I commit to something fully until it’s over. I’ll still be hanging out on Crestway, the street I live on, and going up north to Fourth Lake for fishing and waterskiing.

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Diana Sidorevich
Diana Sidorevich, Managing Editor

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