Albany, Troy Councils Act On 2015 Budgets
On deadline day, the Albany Common Council passed Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s 2015 budget last night. The proposed $176 million budget was approved by an 11-4 margin. But across the river, city councilors in Troy chose not to bring an amended spending plan to a vote last night.
Albany's budget comes with a 1.4 percent tax hike for taxpayers. It stays under the 2 percent cap, so homeowners will get a full rebate through Governor Cuomo’s tax cap initiative.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan has high hopes automated law enforcement will drive $2 million into Albany's coffers by phototicketing motorists who fail to stop for red lights. When unveiling her spending plan, Sheehan conceded it’s a temporary patch. "This is not a 2 million dollar revenue stream that we can expect to enjoy year after year. We believe that once we have compliance, it will drop off significantly."
12th ward council member Mike O'Brien supports traffic cameras. "I voted in favor of that, more as a safety issue. I don't know how much revenue we're going to get out it, quite frankly. There's a couple of things to it. First of all, how long is it going to take them to get a contract with a company that's gonna set up their cameras and take a share of that revenue. Is it going to be 2 million dollars? And then as people become wise to which locations have cameras, I assume the drivers' behaviors are gonna change too. Maybe that's a good revenue number, maybe it isn't."
O'Brien thinks Albany is off-balance with the government, hospital and college buildings comprising 60 percent of the city real estate — tax-exempt real estate. He argues the city should focus on ways to secure steady, ongoing, dependable sources of revenue. "Particularly from Nanotech. That's a creature that didn't exist 20 years ago, and now it's a big player. I mean, it's a good thing but I think we should be deriving some revenue from it. I thought they should get a clear legal evaluation because Nanotech is telling us, 'No, they're a college' and they have that exemption. Only a small portion is a college. Most of it is commercial research."
Across the river in Troy: By 5-3, city council members voted to not vote on their budget recommendations. District 1 councilman Jim Gordon : "Actually last night we weren't given an opportunity to vote on the actual budget. The one item we did vote on was an amendment to the budget, a resolution for that. Once that was defeated the acting council president didn't introduce or allow introduction of the ordinance to vote on the budget because of its wording. Which does two things, it would have put the mayor's original October 1st budget into play, which it technically can do. But since that budget is out of balance, there's no clear tax levy and no clear tax rate that's being set. We're in a precarious position right now, where I believe we should get back to the table, address the unbalanced budget issue, so that we can address what the tax rate and tax levy is."
Without legislative action, Mayor Lou Rosamilia’s original $66 million budget proposal becomes effective by default. Right up to Monday night's vote, Rosamilia insisted his plan was a strong package. "It's a balanced budget and it's fair to taxpayers. It also maintains the general public services that Troy residents deserve."
Rosamilia stressed his budget, like Albany's, stays under the tax cap.