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Albany, Schenectady, Troy Unveil 2015 City Budgets

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

The mayors of Albany,  Schenectady and Troy released their 2015 budget proposals Wednesday. Tri-city residents are in for higher taxes. 

In Schenectady, Mayor Gary McCarthy's $82.3 million dollar spending plan calls for a 3 percent tax increase. McCarthy told Time Warner Cable News that 375 distressed properties in the city are driving an uncollectible 11.5 percent rate.    "If we went back to a historical level which used to be 1.5 percent there would be a 10 percent tax cut so it's the people not paying their taxes that drive up our overall cost."  The 2015 budget earmarks an extra million dollars for the police department.

Automated law enforcement is expected to drive $2 million dollars into Albany's coffers by phototicketing motorists who fail to stop for red lights. It comes with a caveat from Mayor Kathy Sheehan.   "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."

Sheehan's $176.3 million dollar package includes a real property tax increase she says is within the 2 percent cap.     "Approx. $780,000, a 1.4 percent increase."

Individual homeowners’ taxes would go up around 5 percent; commercial property owners would see taxes lowered by 3-point-6 percent. And there's a re-assessment process built into the 2015 spending plan:     "The process takes really two budget fiscal years. So the work would start next year, wouldn't impact anybody's property tax bill until their 2016 School Tax bill and their 2017 city property tax bill."

The capital city last reassessed property values in 2007.   In Troy, Mayor Lou Rosamilia's $66.1 million dollar budget will boost taxes 3-point-8 percent. The mayor tells Time Warner Cable News he's made tough decisions and has no option but to try "to do more with less." He's cutting six full-time and nine part-time jobs, some of which are already vacant.    "Fill the two positions that we have vacant now and then with the '2014 Cops Grant,' bring three additional officers on which would bring our staffing to 133."

Job cuts appear in greater number across the river in Albany:    "All in all we eliminate 96 positions, most of them through attrition, and the others through transferring our crossing guards to a private firm and transferrings the PSOs and TSAs to the parking authority."

Sheehan adds her budget would save more by taking one fire truck out of service...    "Ladder 1 at the South Station. The South Station will remain open."    Firefighters booed loudly — you may have heard one in that clip yelling "you'll get people killed."

South Station is manned through overtime. It is the closest firehouse to the South End neighborhoods bordered by tracks carrying crude oil trains to the nearby Port of Albany. Sheehan's hand-picked chief, Warren Abriel, was later booed by his firefighters, who say taking out Ladder 1 puts the public at risk.  The Albany 2015 Budget also includes $1.5 million in voluntary PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, payments from large nonprofits, and additional funds expected from selling New York's Department of Environmental Conservation 300 acres of land in Coeymans once destined to be Albany's next landfill.

Proposals in all three cities will under scrutiny by council members who will then vote on the budgets.

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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