Present, past Amsterdam mayors spar on spending

Two candidates running to lead the city of Amsterdam as its mayor agree that having held the office

Two candidates running to lead the city of Amsterdam as its mayor agree that having held the office is about the only thing they have in common.

Democrat Ann Thane, the city’s first female mayor, is completing her first four-year term and seeking another.

Republican Joseph Emanuele III, who served as mayor from 2004 to 2007, is looking for another shot at leading his home town. He did not seek re-election in 2007.

Emanuele, a mathematics teacher for 30 years at the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District, said he believes he is the prime choice for voters because he plans to guard taxpayer money.

He accuses Thane of spending too much and said he left City Hall flush with a rainy day account of more than $3 million that’s been depleted.

“You cannot just tax and spend your way into prosperity these days. That theory has really not been a successful theory,” Emanuele said.

Thane, who served as director of the Walter Elwood Museum before winning election in 2007, said not spending money wisely left the city in a dire situation when Emanuele left office.

“You cannot cut your way to prosperity. We don’t pay taxes so that they can sock them away and grow a fund balance. We pay taxes so that operations run and services are provided,” Thane said.

She cites improvements in infrastructure, including the replacement of several fire hydrants and upgrades in the water and wastewater treatment plants as important successes that required a combination of both grants and borrowing.

“What I’m very proud of is that we’ve been able to accomplish so much in really a relatively short time — four years — and we’d been languishing for almost a decade,” Thane said.

It’s too early to tell what the next budget will bring — the city develops its spending plan in the spring for a fiscal year beginning July 1. The city has a self-imposed, 3 percent cap on increases in the tax rate and fees.

The state earlier this year imposed a 2 percent cap on tax levy increases and it’s unclear yet what that will mean for the city’s $25 million budget.

But when the city’s Budget Review Committee took up the budget last year, it faced the need to cut $2.6 million from department requests just to stay within the city’s taxing limit — one that’s easier to meet than the state’s 2 percent cap.

Emanuele said the budget itself will be a major project at City Hall.

“That’s going to be the biggest task. I’m just going to try to get a good handle on the financial condition of the city, if I win, and make that my No. 1 goal,” he said.

Thane said despite the economy, which went into a deep recession the year she took office, the city has been careful with money. Much of the progress over the past four years, including improvements at Riverlink Park and the redevelopment of Bridge Street on the South Side, was paid for by grant funding.

“We’ve been very, very careful,” she said.

She pointed to the recent expansion of employer NTI Global. Officials there were grateful the road in their largely industrial area got paved.

“They are expanding their business at 60 percent a year and they’re based in Amsterdam and the reason they stayed is because we decided to pave the road in an industrial area instead of a residential area,” Thane said.

If re-elected, Thane wants to pursue extending water and sewer services to the town of Florida, bring back the city’s former Community and Economic Development Department, establish a new downtown core and relocate the Amtrak station to the downtown area.

Emanuele points to the city’s water system as the biggest potential for generating revenue.

He said the city’s reservoir, situated on 5,000 acres in Saratoga County, could be dredged, providing more capacity and more water to sell.

“With more capacity, we have more selling power,” Emanuele said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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