Capital Region Cities Face Tough Funding Decisions As Budget Shortfalls Grow During Pandemic | WAMC

Capital Region Cities Face Tough Funding Decisions As Budget Shortfalls Grow During Pandemic

May 4, 2020

Municipal governments in New York have some “difficult decisions” to make with revenues falling short during the pandemic.

The pandemic has impacted municipal fiances. In Albany, two of the biggest warm weather attractions, the Tulip Festival and the Friehofer's Run For Women, were canceled. Officials are hopeful restrictions will be eased upstate, but the clock is ticking. Albany Common Council President Corey Ellis says the panel has met with Mayor Kathy Sheehan about where city finances stand.,

"Our cash flow situation is good. We look at possibly June, running out of cash if things stay the same, but as far as that, you know, our city council members have sent a letter to DC and also the mayor signed on to the letter looking at possible revenue streams, as far as looking at with supporting another stimulus package, so that cities and counties in the state don't have to go through these drastic cuts of having to lay off firefighters and police officers, public safety that we desperately desperately need at this time. But at this time we you know, our mayor hasn't brought up looking at that yet. We are looking at in departments right now to see where we can save, while we're in this our quarantine stage, but I'm pretty sure everything is uncertain."

Mayor Sheehan says “touch decisions” loom any day:

"We are all losing, across the country, billions and billions of dollars in revenue. And if we do not have that revenue, we cannot pay our employees. And if we cannot pay our employees, we cannot provide the central city services."

In Schenectady, the city council meets tonight after The Daily Gazette reported Friday that the Electric City is at the edge of a financial cliff. Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy is reportedly looking at $3 million in cuts, including 30 police officers. The news caught counmcilman John Mootooveren by surprise.

"The council was not aware of these proposed cuts by the mayor and unfortunately we heard about it via the newspaper."

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo:

"Now is not the time to cut emergency services for the residents of our city who are already feeling vulnerable considering the state of affairs we are in. I think there are many different scenarios we can look at budgetarily to help make to help fill this gap if need be. We have a robust general fund that we can look to some of we could look at getting our police overtime under control, we can look at furloughing some non-essential city hall or park staff, and especially with the additional federal dollars coming in right now that dovetail with unemployment. There are many many many scenarios that we can look at budgetarily."

Mootooveren says the council will address the issue tonight.

"I have it on the agenda as an item to be discussed at our committee meeting. We will discuss more and then get to the bottom of it and able to see what the council can do to help to navigate this."

Neither the mayor nor police chief responded to requests for comment.

Back in Albany, Ellis outlines tonight’s agenda:

" We have a couple resolutions that were looking at passing. One resolution is in support of a superheroes project that Senator Chuck Schumer has introduced. So we got a council member who's going to be introducing that resolution and we're going to be showing support for that. So we'll be passing that. And we also, council members are looking at, passing a resolution in regards to the food shortage supplies that we see when it comes to food manufacturing."

Most municipal meetings have gone online during the pandemic.