Saratoga County

Commissioner candidates dispute state of Saratoga Springs finances

City Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins, a Republican seeking his third two-year term, feels he has fina

City Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins, a Republican seeking his third two-year term, feels he has finally solved many of the city’s budget problems, while his challenger, Democrat Michele Madigan, feels much more work is needed.

Kenneth Ivins

AGE: 55

BALLOT LINES: Republican, Conservative, Independence

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University, finance commissioner for four years, owner of Ivins Computer Consulting, former president of the Southern Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce

PERSONAL: Married, one son, one daughter

Michele Madigan

AGE: 45

BALLOT LINES: Democrat and Working Families

EDUCATION/EXPERIENCE: Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Plattsburgh, master’s degree in library and information science, University at Albany. Volunteer for Brookside Museum, reference librarian for Southern New Hampshire University (2002-03)

PERSONAL: Married, two sons

“We’ve worked hard to get the city back in shape, and now I want to work hard to keep the city in good shape,” Ivins said.

He said his proposed 2012 city comprehensive budget of $37.1 million includes a small 0.54 percent tax rate increase that he believes could be reduced to almost no increase by the time the budget is passed in late November.

Madigan said the city creates budgets from one year to the next without planning for the future.

“We need long-term financial planning,” Madigan said. “We need to take a serious look at what needs to be done five or 10 years [into the future], prioritize and put a plan in place.”

She criticized Ivins for developing budgets in 2010 and 2011 that included a total of 12.2 percent in tax rate increases (7.7 percent in 2010 and 4.5 percent in 2011).

“Ivins has a difficult time creating a budget without VLT (video lottery terminal) money,” Madigan said.

In 2009, the city did not receive revenue sharing it expected from the state for hosting the Saratoga Casino and Raceway on Crescent Avenue. This unexpected deficit of more than $2 million led to police, fire and public works layoffs in 2010 and major budgeting headaches.

The city did not expect, nor budget for, VLT money in 2011, but after a successful lobbying campaign at the state and local levels, it received $1.49 million in VLT money this summer.

About $450,000 of this is being used to fund priority items, including needed city road paving near the raceway, Ivins said. The remaining $1 million is being placed into a tax stabilization fund to be used in future years if the revenue sharing is again denied the city.

Madigan said the stabilization fund is “a good thing to do.” She also feels that the city’s projected $4.2 million fund balance appears to be adequate.

She wants to use her past experience with the state Small Business Development Center Library (she was director there from 1991-94) to obtain grants for small businesses and female-owned businesses in the city. Her key issue, however, is to “maintain or enhance central services,” such as police and fire protection, emergency medical services, snow removal, “without increasing taxes and fees.”

“I don’t think we need a tax increase,” Madigan said.

Ivins said his key issue is “keeping taxes down as low as possible.”

He’s also proud of the process his Finance Department used to solicit ideas from city taxpayers on how to use the VLT revenue the city received this year from the state.

He circulated a VLT funds petition last fall, signed by thousands of city residents and sent to state leaders in Albany, urging them to restore the revenue. When the money did materialize, he sought residents’ suggestion on how to use the money.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we have turned the corner and are on the path toward my vision of a fiscally sound Saratoga,” Ivins said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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