The city Transportation Department will have to wait a little longer for new doors and ceiling tiles at its aging bus garage. Riders will also have to wait for the purchase of two new buses to replace ones that have fallen into disrepair.
The Common Council decided Tuesday that both replacement requests were capital improvement projects, and therefore should be held to more stringent proposal requirements because both would cost more than 5 percent of the department’s operating budget.
Alderman William Wills, D-4th Ward, submitted the two proposals. One would authorize department Director Cheryl Scott to purchase two new buses at a cost of no more than $15,000; the department would actually have to spend $120,000, which is the total cost of the buses, according to Scott, before the state Department of Transportation would reimburse the department for 90 percent.
The second proposal called for transferring $40,000 into the Transportation Department’s budget to replace six garage doors, two metal entrance doors and falling ceiling tiles.
City Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis said both projects qualify as capital improvement projects, which means the items should be held to a higher accountability and the department will have to submit detailed information about the proposed work, including citing a funding source and how the money would be spent.
“We are looking for things like how much will the maintenance be on the new buses, because that is all factored into the operating budget,” DeCusatis said.
According to Alderwoman Kim Brumley, capital projects are typically acted on during the budget process but can be voted on at any time.
“This one is just coming to us late for some reason,” she said.
Wills said he hopes to be ready by the next Common Council meeting, Feb. 19, with detailed plans. Wills anticipates asking that both projects be funded from the unappropriated fund balance, which is nearly $1 million and is supposed to be used as a “rainy day” fund.
Wills expects that money would be returned to the fund balance once the state reimburses the department for the two buses, which he said could take up to a year.
Council members also learned that $90,000 in aid to the Transportation Department that was arranged by then-assemblyman Paul Tonko during the last fiscal year to help balance the department’s budget is unaccounted for.
City Controller Heather Reynicke said she thinks the money has already been given to the department and used, but there is no paperwork to back that up. The department reported a $50,000 shortfall to the state last year, she said.
Brumley, C-3rd Ward, said she would not support the capital projects if the $90,000 wasn’t accounted for. She also said she wouldn’t be in support of tapping into the unappropriated fund balance.
“I like to look at these things on a personal level. You don’t buy a house all in one shot; if it has a life of 30 years, you pay for it over 30 years,” she said. “I’d feel more comfortable paying for a bus over five years if it has a life of five years.”
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Categories: Schenectady County