Schenectady County

Schenectady budget plan nearly done

Even the Schenectady City Council’s usual critics did not muster much anger at Tuesday’s budget hear

Even the City Council’s usual critics did not muster much anger at Tuesday’s budget hearing.

There was no shouting. No shaking of fists. One critic said the budget was simply “a disappointment” and “unremarkable.” Only five people spoke.

Resident Harry Brand offered the only moment of passion about the proposed $79.2 million budget, which raises taxes by just 1.89 percent — $24 for the average homeowner — but raises fees by $68.

“Get that budget and the fees down to zero,” Brand pleaded. “If you people can’t get the message that our seniors and the people in this city are hurting, I don’t know what it’s going to take.”

He predicted that the city would have to start offering meals to seniors if the budget’s fees are approved. Instead, he said, the council should tell every employee that they can’t have any perks, including cell phones and taking city cars home.

“I was in supervision. I was called in on emergencies. No vehicle provided,” he said. “If they don’t like it, find someplace else to work, simple as that.”

Resident Mary McClaine also offered a laundry list of possible cuts, starting by selling the entire city vehicle fleet. It wasn’t clear how police would patrol or the city would plow the streets, but she said the savings in fuel would be tremendous.

Resident Vince Riggi, who is running for council on the Alliance and Republican lines, told the council to reconsider the body shop, which has a budget of $145,200.

This is the shop’s first year, and it brought in $178,000. That was enough to more than cover the two employees’ salaries and benefits — about $150,000 — or the shop’s budget, which doesn’t include benefits but does include salaries, materials and supplies.

Riggi questioned whether the city was actually making money on the shop, saying that he doubted the city was keeping track of all materials and the high cost of baking paint on newly-sandblasted trucks.

Mayoral candidate Roger Hull was not at the hearing because he was visiting his mother. But by phone, he also questioned the body shop costs.

“How can you say you make money when you don’t factor in the cost of construction and the interest on that borrowing?” he said.

One resident spoke in favor of the budget.

Phil Grigsby, the executive director of Schenectady Inner City Ministry, said, “It’s a straightforward budget. It deserves straightforward support. It shows some initiatives that are good as a beginning.”

The budget calls for greater efforts to foreclose upon and sell abandoned buildings before they deteriorate. It also depends more on a tax collection company to collect delinquent taxes, and adds a variety of fees and fines for noise, towed vehicles, frivolous 911 calls and other items.

Riggi praised the council for those additions.

“Do more of that instead of fees. I think you should add more,” he said. “That’s what we need in this city to start cleaning it up. Let’s charge the people who are breaking the law. I think it will get the message across. That’s what we need.”

The council will adopt the budget by the end of the month, possibly after making changes to it. No additional public hearings are scheduled.

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