Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan took the wraps off her proposed 2019 budget Monday morning. Now, the Common Council and city residents are taking a closer look.
Sheehan, a second-term Democrat, says the $177 million spending plan builds upon her administration’s mission of creating a fiscally sustainable future for the city. "This budget increases very slightly from last year. As you know we had two years in a row where our budget actually decreased, our overall spending and our overall revenue decreased, this is a slight increase of about .33 percent in our overall spending, so it's still well under the 2 percent cap that the governor placed on the growth of the state budget. And the difference between this budget and our budget in 2018 is just under $600,000. About $600,000 of our additional revenue is driven by an increase in funding to our community development agency, which is really a pass-through. So, if you take out our community development agency, this budget would actually year over year have no growth."
Sheehan promises increased investments in city programs and services. She vows to "hold the line" on spending and investing by not increasing the property tax levy and giving all non-union city employees a 1 percent raise — excluding herself, the city treasurer, and chief city auditor.
Once again, the city will be looking for an influx of a state aid to plug the gap. She noted that the budget asks that $12.5 million in “Capital City Funding” be included in the state budget. "This budget does not balance without the $12.5 million."
- WATCH Mayor Sheehan’s budget presentation to the Common Council and residents of the City of Albany.
Solid waste disposal occupies a prominent place in the proposed budget. A contentious "trash fee" goes citywide if her plan is approved. "We have budgeted for a $90 annual curbside waste collection fee, that raises about $2.82 million for a program that costs $4.65 million annually. And I want to point out something very important. That $4.65 million does not include the cost of our recycling program. Not only does it not include the cost of disposing of recycling material, which has gone up drastically, we used to get revenue from it and now we're paying to dispose of it. It doesn't include the cost of curbside pickup. So the total cost of our, in addition that $4.65 million, we spend about $1.7 million annually for our recycling program."
The budget now goes to the Common Council for review. Common Council President Corey Ellis says he's optimistic about the direction Albany is going in. "The tax levy is not going up. I think that's very important to our residents in the city of Albany and I'm glad we're showing that we are holding on spending but continuing to pay down our debt. I think that's very important, especially with the landfill, because for many any years we relied on that income from the landfill, and that this administration realized it was going to close, so we had to start saving money on our landfill by weaning ourselves off that revenue."
Ellis says the council and the mayor are on the same page when it comes to imposing the trash fee citywide. "When it was passed years ago, council voices were heard and I think this mayor decided 'OK, council members said we want it across the city,' and that's what happened."