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Schenectady city councilors miss budget deadline for first time in years

Schenectady 2024 Budget Meeting, 11/1/23
Open Stage Media
Schenectady 2024 Budget Meeting, 11/1/23

Schenectady City Councilors missed the deadline Wednesday to pass the city’s 2024 budget.  

Trash, water and sewer fee increases remain sticking points holding up approval of Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy's $111 million spending plan, along with $1.1 million dollars in cuts the all-Democrat council proposed to police and fire overtime funding.

After several failed attempts to approve the budget, councilors gathered Wednesday, voting 3 to 3, keeping the package in limbo. Council Finance Committee chair John Mootooveren, on record saying he won't support a budget that carries a tax hike, was absent. Last month Mootooveren told WAMC the possibility was high the spending plan would be passed. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The last time Schenectady's budget deadline was missed was some 30 years ago. Prior to the vote, McCarthy, a Democrat running for re-election, questioned the council's end goals. “Every line in that budget, I can support the assumptions that are made. Now that does that mean? Some of those things that we started in June or July, that they haven't changed, now in the councils reviewing those in those assumptions are incorrect things to change were likely better savings or like increased expenses," McCarthy said.

"I would expect the Council to take that into consideration in terms of your deliberations. But you came in here, you took $1.1 million of public safety, wasn't happy with it, didn't quite understand the logic behind it. You've now gone through we're gonna call it an interesting process. Now you're putting the $1.1 million in, and are looking to remove other positions that I really feel are important. And I don't mind going through line by line to get some of the department heads here to look at those in terms of what the expectations are, if we fill those positions, what our goal is. As we all know, recruitment now is somewhat of a mission. So it's finding people with the right skill set to bring in to the slot so that we can deliver the services people in the city, need, want and deserve,"said McCarthy. 

Councilor Carmel Patrick noted that “working on the budget is the most important responsibility of the city council.” “And I think that we certainly have done a lot of due diligence over the last several weeks. I actually wrote something up this afternoon. After spending the afternoon contemplating all that we've heard over these last few weeks from the mayor, our finance team, and our department heads and all the answers they have provided to our questions, I believe they have presented a realistic fair and balanced budget. To continue reiterating the same points over and over is unnecessary. I've certainly been told that many times by my colleagues around this table over the last few weeks. However, I do want to say I'm not in favor of cutting into the reserve fund in a way that will jeopardize the city's fiscal health as was presented to us by our fiscal advisor and our finance team. I believe that the increased water, sewer and waste fees need to be implemented as presented. The decision last year to not implement what was requested worsened our situation this year, and will continue to do so next year," said Patrick. 

Councilor Doreen Ditoro says the panel and city officials will have to work toward reconciling their differences of opinion. "Last evening, I did, I did request that I that I hear from each and every department head as far as the open positions, vacant positions in the city, with people were, some members of Council, were willing to go through and take those open positions away," said DiToro. "So did requests that I heard for I hear from each department head and they all spoke. And so we're, we're still processing that information. As far as I'm not in favor of finding any open positions with the city at all. Those positions are put in there because they need to be put in there. And we need that we need the help. So, I'm not sure you know, when what anyone else is thinking?”

 Another vote has not been scheduled.

 Democratic Council President Marion Porterfield: "If you don't pass the budget, at least by the end of the year, then the city shuts down because you don't have a budget to run off of."

McCarthy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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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