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Saratoga Springs Makes Request For Federal Aid

The City of Saratoga Springs, whose economy relies on its thunderous summer tourism season, is taking steps to brace for impact during an uncertain recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan revised her estimated annual budget impact from the pandemic at Tuesday night’s city council meeting. Madigan bumped up her projection about a million dollars from her last analysis.

“With a $15 to $17 million revenue projected loss, we’re still coming up short. But we are getting there. And we are getting at least through December, and not through the end of June,” said Madigan.

On Friday the city announced voluntary furloughs of 43 city employees in a move to avoid layoffs. Departments were also asked to submit a list of potential spending cuts.

The council voted Tuesday to approve a tax anticipation note to support payroll, a measure to free up restricted fund balance, and a formal resolution to ask the city’s Congressional representatives for federal funding – joining a growing list of regional communities that have done the same.

Mayor Meg Kelly, a Democrat like Madigan, thanked the Finance Commissioner for the federal ask.

“I want to thank you, Commissioner, for doing this. It’s a great thing. I think the more they can hear from us, the better off we’ll be,” said Kelly.

“Thank you,” replied Madigan, “and we will be sure to get that resolution out to all of them first thing tomorrow.”

The HEROES Act recently passed by Democrats in the House could provide Saratoga Springs with $14 million for 2020, and $8 million into 2021. But the bill faces opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.

With a downtown usually bustling with restaurants and shops, and Phase One of New York’s regional reopening taking effect, Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton said work is underway to make sure businesses are following a safety protocol.

Asked about reconfiguring Broadway as a pedestrian-only street that could be used for dining, Dalton, a Republican, said the change couldn’t be made.

“All of these businesses, if they need fire, ambulance, police car, we have to use Broadway to drive down,” said Dalton. Second of all, we are part of the New York State Highway System and we are a designated truck route, Broadway is a designated truck route. And that’s not something we could change to allow for it to be permanently closed for the stable seating.”

Dalton did, however, say the city would help business owners on other streets.

“Code Enforcement is ready and willing to come up with temporary language to help increase capacities. Whether it’s on sidewalks…we had a restaurant owner contact us who has a parking lot who wants to do some expansion into his parking lot with dining and entertainment. And we are willing to work with everybody so give us a ring, and we are here,” said Dalton.

Economic drivers including the horse tracks, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and Skidmore College remain in suspended animation. Horse racing can return to New York June first, though without fans in the stands. Saratoga Race Course was originally slated to open July 16th. SPAC has canceled its 2020 classical season. And Skidmore students returned home early this year.

Speaking with Saratoga Springs County Supervisor Matthew Veitch, who detailed some savings found in the county’s Buildings and Grounds Committee by suspending non-essential capital projects, Kelly said she wanted more communication with the county and state.

“I have the best communication with all the community leaders, from NYRA to Skidmore to SPAC, and nobody is talking to me from any taskforce with the state or the county. Just putting it out there,” said Kelly.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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