Fresh off the Democratic primary campaign, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan unveiled her 2018 proposed city budget this morning at City Hall.
"When we talk about this budget, we're talking about a budget that continues to do more with less," said the mayor.
“More with less” the theme of Sheehan's $176 million-dollar spending plan, presented to the Common Council and other city officials. The mayor cited a recent high-profile report that evaluated the city's finances. "We have embraced and had already started to implement a number of recommendations that were in the PFM report, and we have highlighted in this budget where we have changes or investments that we are making that align with those recommendations."
A key recommendation made in the report: raise property taxes. "The increase is approximately point 9 percent - is 9/10ths of 1 percent, so you're looking at about $14 for the average homeowner."
City budget director Michael Wheeler: "One of the recommendations from PFM was that the state does that some of the counties do is include a vacancy savings within your salary lines. I did a four-year financial model on our budgeted salaries versus actual salaries. The difference the savings that you have there in that salary and those benefit lines then just get put right back into the budget so you're actually showing a four-year average of what your real salaries in those departments are."
Sheehan said "So this budget does eliminate 13 positions, umm, most of those positions are empty."
The mayor says some of the others are retirement-eligible; the remainder will be offered other positions.
That $12.5 million figure that dogged last year's budget and garnered plenty of debate in the Democratic primary race is back again. "Every year we start with a gap and then we work to reduce that gap. But the structural gap of the fair share form New York state again demonstrates you can't treat the Capital City like no other city and expect us to be able to balance a budget and deliver city services. And when I look at what we do with less, even that $12.5 million is significantly less per capita than what is received by cities like Rochester and Syracuse and Buffalo."
So expect to see Mayor Sheehan head up the hill to the capitol in 2018 to push for that funding.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli recently rated Albany as significantly fiscally stressed. Sheehan admitted "We inherited a complete depletion of our fund balance and have been working to climb out of that for the last four years. And we have made significant progress, but we're not there yet."
The comptroller's report noted that Albany's financial health has been improving over the last year.
Common Council president pro-tem Richard Conti of the 6th Ward says the budget plan makes sense. "We're not gonna white that stress out overnight, but it's a path forward."
The Common Council will review the plan and meet with the budget director next Wednesday. The first public hearing will be October 16th at the Common Council meeting, with a second the first Monday in November.