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Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan delivers 2022 budget proposal a month from election

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan presented her budget proposal for 2022 Friday in a virtual address.

Sheehan, a Democrat running for a third term, began her budget address with a nod to the challenging times the pandemic inflicted on city government and recognizing city employees' dedication.

"That is why we fought so hard for fiscal relief. And that's why our first American Rescue Plan allocation was to award our union employees premium pay, and our non union employees across the board wage raises," said the mayor.

Sheehan conceded that had federal COVID relief not come to fruition, she "would be presenting a very different budget."

This year the mayor delivered a nearly $190 million spending plan for 2022.

"This budget invests $8 million to rebuild streets and sidewalks, a 25% increase from 2021," Sheehan said. "It continues our park investments with new playgrounds at Krank and Washington parks, as well as our promised phase two at Colby Park. It has an additional $1.25 million for Lincoln Park, for the North Gateway and Northwoods Forest portion of our Lincoln Park plan. It provides for new DGS employees to help collect trash, fix streets, clean parks and trim trees. It includes new code work, new codes employees to expand our inspection programs. And it invests in our most valuable asset, our workforce, across the board raises for our non-union workers, as well as negotiated union raises for police supervisors, our dispatchers, our APD non-sworn employees, our firefighters, DGS supervisors, teachers and school crossing guards."

The budget also invests in public safety: a $250,000 initiative to install speed bumps on city streets in West Hill. And hiring a new public safety commissioner, which 10th ward Common Councilor Owusu Anane supports.

"I'm glad to see that the mayor have a public safety commissioner and that they're looking to hire 80 new police officers to fill the vacancies that exists in our city. Public Safety is of major concern and I feel like as government officials, if we're not keeping residents safe, we're quite frankly not doing our job," said Anane.

The budget implements recommendations made by the city’s state-mandated policing reform collaborative.

There's also money for streetlights and trees. And the plan takes into account a reduction in landfill revenue as the city moves to extend its life.

The spending plan does not increase property taxes but does raise the amount of "tin cup" money Albany annually asks from the state from $12.5 million to $15 million to compensate for untaxable state-owned land located in the city.

"I'm actually going to be introducing a resolution next week, supporting the mayor's request," Anane said. "The state keeps expanding their footprint, and we want to make sure that it's not becoming a burden on the taxpayers of the city of Albany."

Sheehan pointed out that the city's COVID Recovery Task Force held more than 77 meetings before issuing a final report on how to distribute American Rescue Plan money. $7.1 million of ARP funding is earmarked for "revenue replacement;" $25 million is being allocated to support the public health response during COVID, support small business, tourism, travel and hospitality arts; education and workforce services along with housing, transportation and community revitalization.

"We are going to set aside funding in each of the identified areas," Sheehan said. "And there will be a transparent application process to access these funds. And we will ensure that we are doing this in a way that is incredibly transparent to the community and to our common council. In fact, we have decided that we are going to require our departments to apply for this funding, if they are seeking to use Recovery Act funding in their programming and in their operations. We are in the process of hiring a consultant to assist us with compliance and oversight. We'll be issuing requests for proposals to fund projects within each of the priority areas. And we are going to be encouraging internal and external stakeholders to apply."

The budget plan must be approved by the Common Council.

Also on Friday, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy proposed a more than $97 million budget for 2022. In a virtual address, the Democrat said the plan carries no tax increase and restores some positions that were eliminated by the city during the coronavirus pandemic.

McCarthy says the plan includes more than $4 million from the federal American Rescue Plan. The proposal uses the funds to restore staffing and offset police, fire and administrative expenses tied to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Schenectady County Manager Rory Fluman is proposing a roughly $342 million 2022 budget, up from the current $327 million plan. The proposal includes a 1 percent decrease in the county’s property tax levy. The $20 million proposed 2022-2027 Capital Improvement Program includes funding for maintenance on about 60 miles of county roads and 20 miles of surface treatments or “new road” paving.

Fluman is scheduled to make a formal budget presentation to the county legislature on Oct. 4.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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