Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan has delivered a $180 million spending plan for 2021.
Sheehan, a second-term Democrat, began her budget address praising city workers while noting her administration continued to provide Albany residents with essential services despite the onslaught of COVID-19.
"In addition to threatening our communities' physical health, COVID-19 imperiled our fiscal health. Early on we projected a $19 million dollar revenue shortfall caused by the COVID pandemic. But we believe that after bailing out cruise lines and Fortune 500 companies, Washington would certainly provide direct state and local aid to replace the revenue we lost because of COVID. Unfortunately, that still hasn't happened. Our front-line workers have not received the aid from Washington that we expected. Based on our current forecast, we're projecting a nearly $16 million revenue shortfall for 2020, due to COVID-19."
Sheehan vows not to cut city services or jobs.
"In 2021, I'm proposing a budget that is approximately $180.8 million. That's a reduction of about $600,000 compared to our 2020 budget. It is a budget that reflects the reduction in sales tax revenue, based on projections. It is a reduction of our appropriated debt reserve. But it fills in 100 percent of our state aid and capital city funding. This is because I believe that we must fight for direct state and local aid. We deserve this fiscal relief. Now, more than ever."
Sheehan says there will be no cuts to police and fire services. Another goal of the 2021 budget is to make Capital Hill golf course self-sustaining, independent of taxpayer support.
Before COVID hit, Sheehan was planning a tax cut this year. Instead, there will be an increase below the 2 percent tax cap of $29 a year for a home assessed at $150,000. Businesses will see a small tax reduction.
10th Ward Common Councilor Owusu Anane sees the budget as overly optimistic that the city will be made whole by state and local aid:
"We need to prepare for the idea that we might not get all the money we requested. While the mayor doesn’t present a contingency plan in that event. I believe that the council and ultimately the people have a say on what happens in the worst scenario."
Anane says he would like to see money in the budget for citywide broadband service.
"What this pandemic has exposed is that there are disparities as related to the digital divide. 27 percent of our residents don't have access to the internet. And because of the pandemic many school districts are reliant on distance learning. And if a student doesn't have the internet capability and broadband, they aren't able to do their school work. Having access to the internet is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity. We need to fund and make sure that all our residents have access to the internet."
The budget now goes to the Common Council for review.