Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy delivered his State of the City address at Monday evening's City Council meeting.
"I predict that we'll end 2020 with a deficit a little over 8 million dollars."
McCarthy, a Democrat in his third term, says the Electric City was doing very well before the pandemic and he is now holding out hope federal assistance will come.
"We spent about $600,000 in unanticipated expenses due to COVID-19, which still has not been reimbursed in spite of promises from the federal government. Saw a significant drop in prior year tax lien collections, state aid was reduced, casino revenue is down and the interest on real property taxes will also reduce. To offset those shortfalls I reduce non personnel expenses by $2.1 million and imposed a hiring freeze which has saved us approximately $1.9 million. And we issued a $7 million tax anticipation note."
McCarthy says Schenectady made progress despite COVID-19, citing various initiatives including expanded municipal broadband.
"Our public WiFi deployment neighborhoods have steadily increased during the past year with deployment of over 100 access points."
McCarthy hailed continuation of the Smart City program, with 10 new electric vehicle charging points on Liberty Street activated earlier Monday, and a push toward better illumination of city streets.
"The LED streetlight conversion will save 50% of the electricity we use initially for street lighting, with greater savings in the future as we utilize the dimming function."
McCarthy touted a new initiative that helps residents in need of urgent medical care.
"A new telemedicine platform with Ellis Hospital, MVP, CDPHP healthcare and United Concierge Medicine. Our paramedics now can perform telehealth consultations with UMC physicians remotely, avoiding costly trips to the emergency room. With 115 paramedics the Schenectady fire department is the first and the largest department in the region to provide this service."
McCarthy says property values in the city are rising. He says it is the result of blight removal, selling foreclosed property, creating home-ownership opportunities, working with potential homebuyers and facilitating rehab and new construction. Last year 34 blighted and dilapidated buildings met the wrecking ball.
"Even with a COVID-19 shutdown and restrictions on access to the courts and the county clerk's office. We sold 71 properties for just under a million dollars. And we have 45 sales that have been approved by the City Council that are pending, with a value of $1.2 million.”
Leesa Perazzo, who is moving out of Schenectady County, resigned her city councilor post on January 14, but says McCarthy's address was spot-on, touching all the important points.
"Prior to 2020, you know, we went five years reducing taxes for the residents of the city of Schenectady. But with the loss of revenue from the federal government, as well as from the casino that, you know, was shuttered for a number of months, and now, you know, of course, can only work at a certain percentage of success. And the added expenditures of COVID have really been heartbreaking, you know, and again, it's not just Schenectady. It's every city in every state across the nation.”