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With new city council coming in, a look at Troy’s budget, garbage collection complications

City Council Chambers, Troy NY
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
City Council Chambers, Troy NY

With the 2021 election in the books, the Troy City Council is preparing for next year with some new faces.

City Council President Carmella Mantello, a Republican, is serving a four-year term and will not be up for reelection until 2023. Three incumbents remain on the panel: In Districts 1 and 2, incumbent Republicans Jim Gulli and Kim Ashe-McPherson won reelection by sizeable majorities, as did District 3 Democrat Sue Steele.

Democrat Emily Menn won District 4, represented by Anasha Cummings. In District 5, Democrat Kiani Conley-Wilson takes the reins from Ken Zalewski. Democrats Cummings, Zalewski and District 6's Eileen McDermott opted not to run for reelection. Mantello says she will be getting to know the new members.

"I haven't touched base with the new District 5 council member yet," said Mantello, "but I have touched base with the new District 4, Emily Menn. And we plan to have coffee soon."

District 6 voters await the absentee ballot count for the council's closest race between Democrat Cheryl Kennedy and Republican Irene Sorriento.

"Sorriento is down by 17 votes. And Cheryl Kennedy is the Democratic candidate," said Mantello. "And there's 130 ballots out there, absentee ballots, Dave, so the council so far is three to three with myself, Jim Gulli, Kim Ashe, and then the two new people and then we're not sure which new one in District 6 until the absentees are counted."

Mantello expects the absentees to be counted this week.

She says the council is facing several major challenges including neighborhood revitalization and public safety, addressing an uptick in violence on city streets. Then there's the matter of the $45 million Troy received in federal American Rescue Plan funding.

"And so appropriating those monies to ensure that they're going into our neighborhoods, that they're going towards infrastructure, toward our parks, revitalization, housing, youth programs, things to that nature are keys and priorities, which I believe all the council members agree are needed in our city," Mantello said. "And if you think about it Dave, the $45 million, that's half of our budget, a little more than half of our budget. So, this is a huge challenge to ensure that we get the monies out in couple of the neighborhoods, not just one or two."

Mantello says she is confident a bi-partisan council can work collaboratively with Democratic Mayor Patrick Madden to make certain ARP funding is distributed fairly and equitably. Madden said last month the city is considering how to spend the money.

"So it might be job readiness and preparation, it might be affordable housing, it might be daycare," said the mayor. "We’re looking at the critical buckets that will help people in the city recover from any damage they may have suffered, fiscal damage they may have suffered during the pandemic."

Madden's $77.9 million budget proposal carries a property tax increase within the tax cap and adds staff to departments including Code Enforcement, Streets, Parks, and Parking Enforcement. Mantello says there are proposals for $5.3 million and $37 million of new bonding which will total over $42 million for Troy's 2022 Capital Plan for new projects and equipment.

Madden is also proposing a $26 increase to the city garbage fee, bumping the fee up to $219 per unit. The fee has become a perennial sticking point with Mantello, who calls it a "hidden tax" that was supposed to be temporary.

"And now people are turning to private garbage haulers to try to save money and feel that they're getting better service," said Mantello. "And that's an issue, because the more people that leave the city, their garbage, sanitation services, because the mayor's price, basically, you know, single says out as a separate fee. By doing that, he now has turned folks to turn to private haulers, which has now increased the fee more and more and more, because less people are utilizing the city services. So it's a real quandary. Additionally, the mayor, in his proposed budget, proposes what they're calling is a per barrel type of system. In my opinion, it's just another fancy word for pay as you throw," Mantello said.

Mantello says about 600 households have opted out of city trash collection. She adds the council is two-thirds of the way through budget and committee meetings. The final budget public hearing is scheduled for November 23rd. The council must vote on the spending plan by December 1.

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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