Saratoga Springs Budget Revealed, Parking Garage Discussed

Oct 7, 2015

Credit Lucas Willard / WAMC

Homeowners in Saratoga Springs would see a modest decrease in their property taxes under a new budget proposal and discussions are continuing on how to proceed with two recently submitted plans for a downtown parking garage.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan outlined her 2016 budget plan.

"Under the 2016 Comprehensive Budget, Saratoga Springs taxpayers will receive a 0.14 percent tax decrease, as well as a rebate through the New York State Freeze Credit," said Madigan.

The $43 million budget plan is supported by projected increases in sales tax and mortgage tax, as the city experiences a trending growth in recent years.

The gains in revenue collections are offset by flat state aid, rising healthcare, and no change in VLT aid. The city receives funding from state video lottery terminal machines because it hosts the gambling machines at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway.

"VLT aid is significant not only because of its amount., but also because of its erratic history. While it was originally touted as a recurring revenue designed to assist host cities, the state has been inconsistent in its delivery," said Madigan.

The state budget calls for $1.8 million in VLT aid for Saratoga Springs. Madigan said she has not yet seen an effort from lawmakers so far to boost that amount to $2.3 million, as has been done in recent years.

Also on Tuesday, the city council discussed how to proceed with the two designs for a downtown parking garage submitted to the city last week through an RFP.

The two proposals would feature parking for the Saratoga Springs City Center as well as housing and commercial space. The City Center is currently working on its own plan to build a standalone parking structure on the same downtown parcel.

Opponents of the City Center proposal, including the owners of the neighboring Mouzon House restaurant, asked the city to suspend its land-use review process for the City Center's parking proposal as the RFP proposals are considered.

Dianne Pedinotti, a co-owner of the Mouzon House restaurant, asked the city to turn its attention to the alternative proposals.

"And send a message to the planning board that you need time to really look at this before you go ahead and approve the site plan and all the approvals for the standalone, five-story parking garage."

City Center president Mark Baker also spoke to the council.

"There's absolutely no reason or justification to suspend any of the process that is currently ongoing concerning the City Center's project, because the ultimate decision rests with this council," said Baker.

Mayor Joanne Yepsen is seeking to establish a technical review team to study the RFP proposals. The council also discussed hiring a company to perform an appraisal of the property for lease or sale. Possible future presentations of the projects by the two companies was also discussed, as well as possible public workshops on the projects.