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Schenectady 2020 Budget Proposal Released

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy has outlined his budget plan for the coming year.

Spending goes up by about 3 percent, taxes do down by 0.46 percent in Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy’s proposed $112.9 million dollar spending plan. General Fund expenses total $89.4 million.

The mayor handed out copies of his tentative budget moments before his public address.

Highlighting the fact that property tax is the Electric City's primary source of revenue, McCarthy cited rising costs of health care and state aid as two challenges to fiscal health.   "The current year's budget put in $10.9 million. What I’m recommending for the council's consideration today for 2020 is $12.5 million. That represents a 52 percent increase over the 2018 budget of $8.2 million. And so it's something that we have to look at every day is to look for ways and mechanisms to contain our health care costs.  State aid also continues to be a challenge for the city of Schenectady. A funding formula which does not have any logic to it. It is one that we're on the short end of the revenue stream. But that aid formula becomes a challenge, where our residents have the same desires and needs as other communities across the state. And so where we don't have the partnership with the state, we have to make up for that with local property taxes and that's why the tax rate in the city of Schenectady tends to be higher than in other communities."

The spending plan earmarks $20 million for the police department.   "Our police department continues to be on the forefront of innovation and intelligence-led policing. In 2019 our part 1 crimes are down 12.5 percent when you compare it to the five-year average. The department has successfully completed of the body camera system."

McCarthy added the performance of the vendor chosen has exceeded expectations. He touted the new energy efficient LED streetlights and enhanced wifi the city has begun to roll out. He also noted that this year's budget would mark five consecutive years that taxes have been cut, some thanks to $2.9 million in revenue from Rivers Casino.

One facet of McCarthy's budget proposal caught Independent City Councilor Vince Riggi's eye:   "The big thing I saw when I got back home, you know, after the meeting, because I'm not gonna be disrespectful and be leafing through the budget, which we only got maybe a minute before he started his presentation, that's when Gary handed us the budget, so we had no precursor to what he was gonna present. But when I got home and I realized a litle bit and I started going through the budget, one of the first lines is, when you open up, the city council's first and the mayor's office. Well the mayor has himself in for a 16 percent pay increase.  A little over $15,000.  So I thought that was interesting, and I thought the interesting thing also was the mayor failed to mention that when he was giving his budget overview. That's quite a big thing to fail to mention is 'Oh, by the way I'm writing myself in for a 16 percent pay increase. So, again, I think that's one of the problems with the mayor's office running unopposed this year. I think if he had had opposition, I doubt of he would have had the political courage to present that."

McCarthy is seeking a third term in November. The spending plan must be approved by the City Council members. A public hearing is set for October 15.

City of Schenectady 2020 Proposed Budget via Scribd

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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