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Albany Common Council approves Mayor Sheehan’s 2022 budget plan

Mayor Kathy Sheehan
Patrick Garrett
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The Albany Common Council has approved Mayor Kathy Sheehan's 2022 budget plan, but there is some uncertainty over how to spend federal COVID-19 aid.

Monday night Common Councilors unanimously gave Sheehan's nearly $190 million spending plan the green light. There's no property tax hike under the new budget, which raises the amount of "tin cup" money Albany annually asks from the state from $12.5 million to $15 million to compensate for untaxable state-owned land located in the city.

10th ward councilor Owusu Anane says the recently re-elected Democratic mayor’s budget reflects the priorities of the people.

"I'm particularly proud to see included is $2.6 million for disinvested communities, to promote home ownership and incentives for home improvements, " Anane said. "This is something I fought for. Lobbying the mayor , lobbying the council leadership, the inclusion of this amendment means a great deal to me, because we are sending a message that our city is willing to provide the resources to correct historic inequities and start doing what is right. By no means will this funding address all disparities built up over the decades and our city, however, this funding demonstrates our commitment to ensure that our city recovers from the pandemic."

During her October 1st budget address, Sheehan, acknowledged the challenging times the pandemic inflicted on city government and recognized city employees' dedication.

"That is why we fought so hard for fiscal relief," said the mayor. "And that's why our first American Rescue Plan allocation was to award our union employees premium pay, and our non-union employees across the board wage raises."

Outgoing 9th Ward Councilor Judy Doesschate has fought hard to try to get distribution of ARP funding handled by the panel. She filed an 11th-hour amendment to give the panel more leverage in controlling how ARP funds are spent. It passed, 12-3. City Hall says it’s under review.

15th Ward Councilor Tom Hoey: "There is concern by at least 12 of the council members about control of the federal money, which is over $80 million, that there should be some oversight by the council and the mayor feels that that money is in her purview," Hoey said. "And, you know, there's quite a bit of discussion, we did offer an amendment to try to put some kind of oversight on not all the money, but at least most of it."

Hoey says the tweaking of the city charter some 20-odd years ago took away a lot of the Council's power for making budget decisions. Sheehan addressed the matter in a statement co-issued with treasurer Darius Shahinfar, which reads in part:

“At this time, we are reviewing an amendment that was introduced by Councilmember Judy Doesschate for the first time as the budget was being voted on, thereby bypassing any transparent review by the Finance Committee, the Mayor, the Chief Financial Officer, the City’s legal counsel, or the public."

The statement goes on to say Doesschate "mischaracterized revenue replacement funds as fund balance replacement funds and provided no explanation for how the City will operate if it does not fully replace lost revenue as anticipated by the American Rescue Plan."

The mayor has an option to use veto power, and the council could vote to override the veto.

City Hall’s full statement: “At this time, we are reviewing an amendment that was introduced by Councilmember Judy Doesschate for the first time as the budget was being voted on, thereby bypassing any transparent review by the Finance Committee, the Mayor, the Chief Financial Officer, the City’s legal counsel, or the public.

“In presenting the amendment, Councilmember Doesschate mischaracterized revenue replacement funds as fund balance replacement funds and provided no explanation for how the City will operate if it does not fully replace lost revenue as anticipated by the American Rescue Plan. We believe this amendment poses the potential for dire fiscal consequences including layoffs, cuts to essential city services, a reduced bond rating, potential loss of Capital City funding and an increased fiscal stress score, and will be studying its impacts to determine whether it should stand.”

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