Saratoga Springs’ 2017 Comprehensive Budget was presented at Tuesday’s city council meeting by Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan.
“This is my fifth budget. It’s a $45 million budget and we were constrained by having settled a lot of our labor contracts,” said Madigan.
The $1.5 million increase over last year’s final spending plan is attributable to increases in retirements and benefits increases to city employees. Over the last year, the city settled its remaining labor negotiations.
A SAFER grant will allow for investment in personnel in the city fire department, and a new Director of Risk & Safety position is included in the budget.
“The increase in our budget right now was due to wages, personnel costs. So it does use some fund balance, revenues are fairly flat right now for us, but it’s a good budget. A challenging budget, but a good budget. And no tax increase for the taxpayers,” said Madigan.
Because revenues remain flat, cash reserves were used to fill the $1.5 million budget gap. Madigan maintained that because city taxpayers have built up the cash reserves, they should be utilized to keep taxes flat. Residents will also get a tax rebate through a New York State Freeze Credit.
Among the details, the city has budgeted to receive $2.3 million in payments from the state’s video lottery terminal gambling facilities. In past years, the city has received that amount after revisions and only budgeting for $1.8 million.
Before the budget presentation, two residents advocated for improvements to make the city more walkable and bikeable by funding the Downtown Connector of the Saratoga Greenbelt trail.
Resident Ken Gray represented the Complete Streets Advisory Board at the microphone.
“People come to our community because there are things to offer, and if we fail to start looking at this in the future we won’t be the same community, so I hope we look at this as an investment,” said Gray.
Ultimately, Madigan said the Downtown Connector trail would be moved to 2018 unless state funding is secured to cover half the project.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen said the Downtown Connector rated highly on the list of priority projects by the Capital Budget Committee.
“I suspect that there’s going to continue to be a loud outcry to ensure that that is funded by the city as well as the state,” said Yepsen.
Negotiations on a final spending plan will continue and there will be four budget workshops held throughout the next several weeks. The City Council has until November 30th to agree to a final budget.
Further south in Saratoga County, Clifton Park supervisor Phil Barrett unveiled his budget plan Tuesday that included no tax increase for 2017 and a spending decrease of around $111,000.
Barrett attributed the plan to further redevelopment in the Exit 9 area and a “diversification” of the local economy and tax base.
“Clifton Park is bucking the trend. We are more than surviving, we are thriving. And we’re going to continue to make the right decisions to make sure people that invest in Clifton Park, both on the commercial and residential basis, will receive a return on their investment,” said Barret.