Schenectady County

Schenectady set to adopt new budget with only one change

McCarthy: City likely to take on wastewater plant

The City Council has thrown in the pencil.

On Friday afternoon, the council will adopt the budget after making only one change — adding $10,000 for ReTree Schenectady to buy trees. The change won’t affect the estimated tax increase or the increases in city fees.

Residents castigated the council for not cutting from the budget.

“You have to find something to cut. This can’t be the perfect budget,” said Vince Riggi, who is running for City Council.

Harry Brand told the entire council to resign, saying they should refuse to give raises and other benefits to the unions during contract negotiations.

“You have the backbone of a wet tissue,” he said.

Mayoral candidate Roger Hull demanded that the city create a 5-year financial plan to see exactly how the decisions in the 2012 budget will affect Schenectady in the long term. Acting Mayor Gary McCarthy said the plan was available on the state comptroller’s website.

Later, Finance Commissioner Ismat Alam said the last plan on that site is from 2007. Her current 5-year plan has not been updated in several months because variables have been changing so quickly, she said.

That plan is an internal document that is not released to the public, she added.

Hull wasn’t impressed.

“We are marching, sometimes lemming-like, toward a fi nancial cliff,” he said.

Resident Pat Zollinger told the council to start working on the budget much earlier in the future.

“It is obvious the council does not have enough time to look at the budget,” she said, calling for a Sept. 1 deadline for the mayor to submit the proposed budget to the council. Currently, the deadline is Oct. 1.

Mayor Brian U. Stratton submitted his first two budgets by Sept. 15, but by 2007 he was submitting them around the Oct. 1 deadline.

In other business, McCarthy told the council that the city will likely take over running the city’s wastewater plant next year.

He has signed a letter taking over the plant on Jan. 1, although contract negotiations with the current operators, Veolia Water, are continuing.

“The negotiations are still moving down the path where we’re going to take it back,” McCarthy said. “The proposal they’ve put on the table doesn’t allow the city to take advantage of any of the increased revenue.”

There could be “substantial” new revenue if the city takes sewage from surrounding suburbs, while also reducing its electricity bill.

It began running its methane cogeneration power system Sunday and should reduce its electrical bill by $250,000 a year, Deputy Director of Water and Wastewater Paul LaFond told the council.

The city could also run the plant for $350,000 less than what Veolia wants in the new contract, McCarthy said.

“Veolia has been a good partner. The question is, how much do we pay for stuff I believe we have the talent internally to do?” he said.

The city would add 21 employees, the current workforce of the plant.

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