With the Albany Common Council set to vote tonight on the mayor's proposed budget, four members have sent a letter to the mayor, critical of her administration's financial management.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan, a first-term Democrat, says it’s easy to defend her proposal. "The 2017 budget that is currently being considered by the council that my administration has proposed is a 2 percent decrease in spending, year over year, the first time that that's happened and the biggest decrease in 15 years. It also holds the line on taxes, it doesn't have any new fees or fines, and it doesn't cut any city services. I believe that we have a proposal that continues the work that we've been doing over the last three years to put the city on a fiscally sustainable path."
Albany Common Council Members Frank Commisso Jr., Ron Bailey, Mark Robinson and Judd Krasher don't see it that way. They’ve critiqued the proposal in an open letter. Krasher says the four "made a determination that the votes on the common council simply aren't there to do things that have to be done to make the economy in Albany work for everyone." " I'll give you two examples. One: drastically reform and how we deal with economic development in the city of Albany. There is no doubt that we rely on corporate welfare doling out millions of dollars in tax breaks the entities that don't need it at the expense of creating jobs and economic opportunities for those that need it most in the city of Albany. If we were to in-house the industrial development agency, in-house our economic development functions, not only would we save money, we would have smarter economic development policies that would pay more attention to the taxpayers and less attention to multimillion dollar corporate entities. That is a real solution. Another solid real solution that we proposed in the letter is an honest to goodness genuine hiring freeze. You cannot talk about a fiscal crisis and continue to make favorite political appointments to vacancies that exist in our city. You have to have a hiring freeze. A hiring freeze alone would address the trash tax and allow us to repeal it."
Krasher and company also targeted revenue shortfalls from red light cameras and the depleted fund balance, along with S&P downgrading Albany’s credit rating with a negative outlook.
Sheehan admits there are significant challenges facing the budget. "We've been in a deficit spending mode since at least 2007. And so, for us to be able to continue to put firefighters in the firehouse and police on the street, we have to be responsible in the decisions that we make with respect to driving efficiencies."
Krasher believes he and his cohorts offer concrete reforms... "...that make a great deal of sense, financially, fiscally, and also make sense for everyday Albany residents that are so often left out of the conversation and merely given lip service. If the council decides to implement any or all of the reforms, we stand ready to do that. If the council reverses course and agrees with the sentiments wholly that we expressed in our letter, it's very easy to take that letter and turn that into resolution form, and adopt it as our budget response."
Sheehan says the city's money problems date back beyond her term.