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Schenectady Mayor Proposes 2021 Budget Plan

A frame from Mayor Gary McCarthy's 2021 budget presentation
City of Schenectady

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy has proposed an $87 million budget for 2021. As WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports, the mayor is proposing staff reductions and fee increases to minimize the impact on city property taxpayers.

Mayor McCarthy, a Democrat, says after five years of property tax decreases in the Electric City, the challenges from COVID-19 make it necessary for a 2.82 percent increase for 2021.

“This complies with the tax cap but unfortunately it is a tax increase for property owners in the City of Schenectady,” said McCarthy.

The proposed 2021 property tax rate of $13.13 per $1,000 of assessed value is an increase over last year, but McCarthy points out the rate is 5.4 percent less than 2015’s rate.

McCarthy says 2020 has been impacted by an estimated $12 million revenue shortfall, including an anticipated 20 percent cut in state aid, reductions in tax collections, casino revenues, and other sources hurt by the pandemic.

The mayor also highlighted some unanticipated expenses in 2020 including $475,000 for its COVID-19 response, and $200,000 in police overtime during protests.

The $87.4 million 2021 budget is 4 percent less than the 2020 Adopted General Fund Budget.

Already under a hiring freeze, the city is finding savings by eliminating 63 positions, 47 of which are currently vacant.

“And the anticipated savings is a little over $3 million. There’s no increase in salaries for management or non-union employees in this budget,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy is also proposing an increase in the city’s residential trash fee.

During 2020, no bonding was approved by the city council for capital projects. For 2021, the mayor is requesting borrowing $7.2 million for things like vehicle and equipment maintenance, engineering, facility improvements, and Schenectady’s Smart City program.

Closing his brief budget presentation Thursday, the mayor said Schenectady, like cities across the country, is going through a “dynamic period” with its eyes on Washington.

“We’ve hoped for some assistance from the federal government that has not come. I’m still optimistic that something will happen. There might be some action as soon as this week or hopefully at least by the end of the year that will provide some stability in the finances for the City of Schenectady and other communities across this country,” said McCarthy.

The Schenectady City Council’s next scheduled meeting is set for Monday.

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