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City Officials Take Steps To Mitigate Revenue Shortfalls

Composite Image By Dave Lucas/WAMC

Capital Region municipalities are laying off workers and cutting services with revenues sharply down during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 shutdown has forced municipalities to cancel major events and will likely impact summer recreation and other programs. Albany is facing up to a $20 million revenue shortfall, according to second-term Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan, who says she won't take a paycheck for the rest of the year.

"Well, we're in the process of contemplating really unprecedented layoffs and cuts to city services as a result of the loss of revenue that we are experiencing because of COVID-19. And, as we look to Congress to act, and to hopefully pass legislation that would allow us to replace that revenue, I decided that I didn't want to hold off on one of the cuts that would be part of any action and that is to forgo my salary for the rest of the year."

Sheehan says not every public official can be expected to forgo a salary or take a huge pay cut.

"Looking at what people are facing, I'm in a position to be able to do this. That's not a position that most people are in, and so in looking at what we're planning for, we decided to hold off and see what happens with the Senate this week, because we want to avoid having to make some really devastating and difficult decisions as we move forward. So I'm really hopeful that people will make their voices heard, and that the Senate will take some action to provide state and local relief. This is not unique to the city of Albany. Cities and towns and villages across the country have seen unprecedented drops in their revenue."

Albany Common Council President Corey Ellis, also a Democrat, says the panel cannot afford to let any employees go. "So we decided that we would look at reducing salaries so that we can keep our most valuable employees in our own department. As far as the mayor taken this pay cut, that is her right to do. You know she she may be in a position to do that. That's great. But a lot of people aren't in that same position to do such things so we would not apply that universally, but we but as a council we're looking at reducing our salaries if possible. So that way we can keep valuable staff that we need within our own Department."

Ellis says tonight's common council meeting convenes at 6:30. It will be held using Zoom and streamed through the Common Council’s Facebook page. He says the agenda is a small one.

"Well tonight we have up for vote, a the local law for first-time home buyers. We have that up for a vote. We also have a consideration of a veto, overriding the mayor's veto on the blood plasma ordinance, and we have a couple more resolutions about property taxes, that's for veterans, possibly coming up for a vote tonight."

Schenectady faces an $11 million loss. Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy agrees federal assistance is the only way to avoid cuts to vital city services: the fire and police departments.

"Some assistance from the federal government would come in and help stabilize not only the city of Schenectady, but you know other communities across New York State, and other communities across the country. You know we're at $11 million. If I eliminate every non-public safety position in the city, we'd still have to cut police and fire to equal those payroll dollars."

Schenectady City Council president John Mootooveren tells WAMC that other than small city initiatives, there is "nothing major" on the agenda for this evening's 5:30 meeting, which will also be available online. You can view it  LIVE at: http://www.openstagemedia.org/: (On the home page, select Government from the 'play' window.)


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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