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Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy Presents 2016 Budget Plan

Lucas Willard

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy presented his 2016 budget Thursday. The Democratic mayor, up for re-election in November, is keeping the city tax rate flat.

Before members of the public and the city council, McCarthy opened his presentation by commenting on the growth in the city in recent years. 

"Schenectady has seen a major resurgence in the last decade. Schenectady County has seen investments of over $900 million. We've seen the retention and creation of 7,000 new jobs. We have a downtown that we can be proud of. And it's the results of these efforts that we've been able to stabilize the city's finances," said McCarthy.

McCarthy's $81 million budget marks a less than one percent increase over the 2015 spending plan. The city tax rate will remain flat.

High property taxes remain a common gripe among Schenectady homeowners. The current rate is $13.88 per $1,000 of assessed value.

McCarthy said the flat rate this year may be lowered in years ahead.

"There's actually a slight decrease in the tax levy, but the tax rate will stay the same. And then as Mohawk Harbor comes online, the casino comes online, with a high degree of confidence I can say that next year we would look for — in 2017, not 2016 — see roughly a 10 percent cut in local property taxes across the board."

McCarthy is also seeking a half-million-dollar increase in the police budget to bring on four new officers and a detective. He also seeks a $130,000 increase for the fire department to assist with training staff and preparing the boat patrol for the arrival of the Mohawk Harbor project.

McCarthy said he'd like to see the budget reflect the $580,000 in infrastructure costs facing the city, and rely less on borrowing. He said since the beginning of his first term four years ago, the city has paved 44 miles of streets. He wants to pave an additional 11 miles in the next year.  The mayor expects revenues from the sale of foreclosed properties to increase in 2016.

After presenting his own ideas for neighborhood revitalization earlier in the day, Independent mayoral candidate Roger Hull attended McCarthy's budget address. The two faced off in a razor-thin race four years ago.

Hull said Schenectady remains the highest-taxed community in the Capital District and that property values have been falling.

"The budget rightly calls for no tax increase, but it's premised on two things: One is that there will be greater collection on liens, and the second, that property tax sales will increase. And if those two things were not to happen, where we'll just stick with this year's numbers, that would be a 3 percent difference in taxation right there. So, in fact, if those numbers don't hit, then you would end up with a 3 percent tax increase."

The City Council will review the mayor's budget proposal and must vote on a final plan by November 1st. To see all the numbers visit: http://www.cityofschenectady.com/pdf/Finance/2016proposedbudget.pdf

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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