Gloversville conquers deficit, cuts taxes

The city has eliminated its accumulated deficit and has cut taxes for a second consecutive year, May

The city has eliminated its accumulated deficit and has cut taxes for a second consecutive year, Mayor Tim Hughes said this week in his annual State of the City address.

When he assumed the city’s top position, Hughes said, Gloversville was “faced with … overwhelming challenges,” including a deficit approaching $700,000, aging snowplows, blighted properties and employee morale problems.

Hughes, a Democrat, said he had to change the mind-set that stood in the way of progress. The attitude, he said, was “we can’t because we never did it that way before.”

The city, which has an approximately $13.5 million budget for the current year, has been working through two mayoral administrations over the past six years to reduce what once was a $1.7 million accumulated deficit.

Councilman-at-Large James Handy, a Republican, said he agreed with Hughes’ message of progress.

“I think he did a pretty good job. He brought to light the changes that are being made,” Handy said.

Hughes, giving credit to department heads, outlined a variety of areas in which he said the city has been making progress — from cutting taxes two consecutive years of his administration, replacing two bridges, updating equipment, installing security cameras downtown and removing snow in the business district expeditiously.

While city officials and employees are committed “to steering the city into a new era,” Hughes said, “there are no guarantees of our future and anyone would be foolish to say it’s all right now.”

Hughes took office with an all-Republican Common Council following the 2005 November election. He continued the deficit whittling of his predecessor, Republican Mayor Frank La Porta. He also has made some unpopular decisions. Hughes chose to continue to maintain his full-time job while carrying out mayoral duties, drawing criticism. Along with a council majority, Hughes fired 16-year veteran City Clerk Gary Margiotta, who has since sued over the action.

Despite the criticism, the city is on track, Handy conceded, but must continue to achieve its goals.

“Everything’s not popular,” Handy said of the changes. “Time will tell.”

Gloversville and Schenectady were the only Capital Region cities on a list last year of the 17 most distressed state cities. Of all the cities, Gloversville was the closest to exceeding its constitutional tax limit, a ceiling that left Hughes little alternative but to cut taxes for 2007, albeit by pennies. The city also had the second-lowest property values per capita. And nearly 1 in 5 of the city’s approximately 15,000 residents are classified as poor, according to the governor’s listing.

Lately, Hughes said, a number of developers have made inquiries about possible commercial projects.

The city Police Department, which is currently being investigated by consultant David Grandeau, is “going to get back to the basics,” Hughes said. “Let’s put more cops downtown and in areas where we haven’t always patrolled for whatever reason.”

The “bottom line,” he said, is “let’s take care of the people here and make sure every resident gets treated with dignity and the respect they deserve. … For the first time in years the words ‘to protect and serve’ are back on our cars.”

The remarks on the department come after the recent resignation of John Harzinski, who retired last month after serving as chief for a decade. Hughes suspended Harzinski in December and brought in Grandeau to review police operations.

In a related matter Tuesday, the council decided against a proposal to have Grandeau review other city departments after completing his work in the police department.

Categories: Schenectady County

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