Like other Capital Region cities, Saratoga Springs is set to receive an influx of federal funding after President Biden signed the latest COVID relief bill. But the city is only expecting about half the amount it was hoping for in a previous bill.
In 2020, the Democrat-led House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, which would have provided sought-after funding to the City of Saratoga Springs. The package that included dollars for state and local governments got no traction in then-Republican-led Senate.
But municipalities across New York breathed a sigh of relief after President Joe Biden signed the smaller $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan relief package into law last week.
During this week’s Saratoga Springs City Council meeting, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan went over the numbers. In the ill-fated HEROES Act, the city was hoping for $14 million. The American Rescue Plan will provide $7.7 million.
“Again that was a $3 trillion package, this is a $1.9 trillion. We were at a higher number, $14 million, which seems almost spot-on, and the communities around us were at…not $85, $59 million…anyway. So, I am looking to understand the formula better. The city is no less grateful for this support and we are sure that there is a reason for the distribution, but I kind of want to know a little more detail, more explanation,” said Madigan.
Madigan was making reference to the amounts other Capital Region cities are to receive under the stimulus plan. Albany is set to receive $85.2 million. Schenectady is anticipating $57.8 million. Troy is preparing for $45 million.
Under the plan, communities will receive funding through a formula based on the federal Community Development Block Grant program, which takes demographic information into account including poverty and income level, density, and other factors.
But the $7.7 million for Saratoga Springs more than covers the $5 million in federal aid planned for in this year’s budget. Madigan announced that she plans meetings in city hall to discuss how the funding can be allocated.
“To this extent, I plan to meet with each department along with the budget director and the director of finance as needed, and my deputy, to discuss budget difficulties that departments are having right now and look at a few priorities so that we can evaluate that we might be able to do with the $7.7 million dollars,” said Madigan.
Also Tuesday, Madigan announced the first sales tax figures for the year. For January 2021, sales tax was down about 9.4 percent, or $75,000, over the same time last year before the pandemic.
As city leaders plan for the year ahead, there’s much anticipation for how the increasing availability of coronavirus vaccine will affect the summer tourism season. Here’s Mayor Meg Kelly, a fellow Democrat…
“Going forward, I do believe that SPAC and NYRA are both looking to have some kind of spectators, so that’s going to bring people to our city so hopefully we can start opening those two venues up,” said Kelly.
And, as the state budget deadline of April 1st approaches, city officials are still hoping for a complete restoration of VLT aid, which was zeroed out in the governor’s executive budget proposal. City officials have been working with local state lawmakers to once again advocate for the money. Here’s Madigan.
“The Assembly did…vote and support full restoration of the aid but the Senate has not yet. But I’m feeling optimistic about it,” said Madigan.