Cities Wrestle With Budget Woes | WAMC

Cities Wrestle With Budget Woes

May 26, 2016

Credit Tax Credits/flickr

Hoping to promote transparency about its precarious finances, the city of Troy has opened the books again.

Mayor Patrick Madden has made Troy’s presentation of the First Quarter Financial Report and 2015 Fiscal Year Review available on the city website. The materials are identical to those presented by Mayor Madden and representatives from the City Comptroller’s office during a public meeting at City Hall May 24th. The first term Democrat says it’s an effort to involve residents and community members in the budget process and provide them an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the city’s current fiscal condition.

"I expressed a desire to share fully with the public the financial information that we develop here, and to share that so that they have a general sense of the challenges both the mayor and the city council are up against in terms of crafting a budget," said Madden.

City Council President Carmella Mantello, a Republican who has her own view of the city’s finances, says there are things that need to happen "yesterday."  "Freezing overtime. 3.9 million dollars overtime last year. That cannot happen this year. Many of the things that the state comptroller, the independent auditor that the council brought in, they're basically saying the same thing, and what they're saying is 'you have to change the way business is being conducted in city hall. You have to free non-essential positions, you have to control legal consultants, and right now that's not being done.’"

Mantello affirms the council will fight any effort by the mayor to raise taxes. Madden insists he's looking out for the interests of taxpayers and remains committed to working with Mantello and the council to find solutions to strengthening the city’s fiscal condition.  "There are technologies that help us do that. That's one of the things that we'll be looking at when we get our heads a little bit more above water, but more of the documentation that's filed in city hall, how can we make that available on websites so that people can go in there and search that information out. And frankly it would cut down on the number of FOIL requests if people could just go on the website and download what they're looking for in the first place. There's some efficiency there, but there's also an important notion of openness as well."

  • The 2015 Fiscal Year Review and First Quarter 2016 Financial Report Presentation can be downloaded here.
  • The quarterly report can be downloaded here.
  • Additional public meetings regarding the topic of Troy finances are anticipated to be announced at a later date.

Across the river, Albany Treasurer Darius Shahinfar is looking at depleted coffers after $2 million of expected red-light camera revenue fell way short and a $5 million land sale to the state failed to materialize.  "Frankly, if the state would treat the city of Albany like Utica, we would double our state aid and we wouldn't have this structural budget deficit. If they treated us like Syracuse and Rochester, we would be able to cut taxes in the city, that's how much more in state aid those cities than Albany does."

Shahinfar traces recurring budget problems back to the previous administration's reliance on so-called "spin-up money" and other state aid. He adds there's a lot of work still to be done.