Albany Common Council Passes Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s COVID Budget Plan | WAMC

Albany Common Council Passes Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s COVID Budget Plan

Nov 17, 2020

The Albany Common Council unanimously passed Mayor Kathy Sheehan's 2021 budget Monday night.

The $180.8 million budget reduces spending about $600,000 compared to 2020, reflecting a projected reduction in sales tax revenue.

Sheehan, a second-term Democrat, says the spending plan isn't totally reliant on federal relief.

"We have created some contingencies that we didn't want to bake into the budget, because we want to ensure that we're able to continue to provide city services. But if we don't anticipate that, that revenue is going to be coming, just as we had to do this year, we have the ability to adjust, we have the ability to slow down on hiring, slow down on spending. And, you know, if we have to look at taking harsher measures, that's certainly something that we will need to look at, because we are required to balance our budget. But we feel confident that we can manage to it. And I wanted to ensure that we were creating a budget for the city of Albany that provides essential city services and continues to meet the needs that we have here. those needs have only grown, they have not gotten smaller. And as our businesses continue to struggle with the uncertainty of what's going to happen with COVID, our families, people worried about the rent, we owe it to our residents to do all that we can to be here for them."

Sheehan says there are no additional layoffs proposed and no substantial reductions to city services, the possible lack of federal and state relief notwithstanding.

10th Ward Common Councilor Owusu Anane:

"We're fairly confident that once President Biden is inaugurated there will be another stimulus package passed which provides aid to state and local government. In the off-chance that doesn't happen, the mayor's office has proposed several contingencies to address any shortfall including drawing a $9.9 million fund balance and implementing a spending and a hiring freeze.

Despite the state’s own revenue crisis, Sheehan says she is confident Albany's annual $12.5 million dollar capital city funding from New York state will come through.

"We have already received portions of that 12 and a half million so for our 2020 fiscal year. And as we look at 2021, I think we've demonstrated and it is an existing part of the budget. So I think that, look, the governor is going to be focusing a significant amount of his time and attention on securing that direct aid from the federal government. And when you are in a crisis, like the one that we are in, which is unprecedented, which is happening for the first time in more than a century, that is the time for our federal government to step up and to recognize that they need to deficit spend in order to prevent people from falling into extreme hardship. And with a new president, I believe that the governor will be successful in doing that."

Sheehan stopped taking a paycheck during the early weeks of the pandemic and will take a self-determined cut in pay in 2021.

"My salary is set by the city charter. So I don't have the ability to change my salary in the budget, I can elect not to take the full salary. And so this year, I stopped taking my salary in May. Next year, I have agreed that until we know that we've got direct aid to fill the all of the revenue that's anticipated in that budget, that I will pay myself what the city deems to be the living wage. And we'll do that until we're able to secure aid. "

That living wage amount falls in the $30,000 a year range. Before COVID hit, Sheehan was planning a property tax cut this year. Instead, there will be an increase below the 2 percent tax cap of $29 a year for a home assessed at $150,000. Businesses will see a small tax reduction.