Schenectady council president objects to quick budget adoption

Majority to hold vote Tuesday
Schenectady City Hall.
Schenectady City Hall.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the number of budget review meetings since Oct. 10. There have been four meetings, not zero.

SCHENECTADY — The City Council will be voting on the proposed 2018 city budget Tuesday evening, even though Council President Leesa Perazzo said she has questions and wants more time to review the spending plan.

The council voted 5-2 at its regular meeting Monday to hold a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. to consider the budget as it was proposed by Mayor Gary McCarthy last month — a budget that calls for a roughly 1 percent tax reduction.

Perazzo, who is also chairwoman of the council’s Finance Committee, voted “no” on holding the meeting, and declared that the majority’s decision to go forward went against an agreement she had in place with majority leader and fellow Democrat Ed Kosiur.

That agreement, she said, would have had public budget workshops held on the budget on Tuesday and Thursday, with a vote to be held next Monday. On Monday afternoon, she said Kosiur notified her that the majority wanted to proceed with a vote.

“I explained to [Kosiur] that I wasn’t finished preparing my questions and I wasn’t finished with my preparations to review the budget,” she said in a passionate statement before voting that drew loud applause from the audience.

Kosiur didn’t respond to Perazzo’s comments at the meeting, but after the meeting McCarthy said his office has been answering questions from council members about the budget, and he’s unaware of Perazzo submitting any questions. There have been four public review meetings on the budget since a public hearing was held Oct. 10.

“The council president has lost the support of a working majority of the council, and she’s showing her frustrtion,” McCarthy said.

The mayor’s general fund budget, released in late September, proposes a 1 percent tax cut, with the projected rate falling from $13.21 per $1,000 assessed value to $13.07 per $1,000.

The budget totals $85.2 million, which would be an increase from a current city budget of $84.6 million. Among key revenue sources, it anticipates nearly $2.3 million from the Rivers Casino & Resort and $1.4 million from the sale of city-owned housing.

“We are reducing taxes, and it is happening because of good fiscal management,” said Councilman John Mootooveren.

Perazzo, however, said she has questions about issues like the financing of an attorney whose salary this year was paid by a grant, and what revenue to expect from a towing contract. She said she will try to raise her questions at Tuesday’s meeting, but isn’t sure how far she will get.

The head of the largest city employees’ union, Adam Armour, said the budget left him concerned for the future of city services. “With this budget, city departments are being understaffed,” he told the council. “The city is not filling jobs that have been open, and are not adding new positions where needed.”

The union, AFSCME Local 1037, has been without a contract with the city since last Jan. 1.

Voting to set the budget vote meeting were Kosiur, John Polimeni, Mootooveren, Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas and Vince Riggi, the only non-Democrat on the council. Voting against setting the meeting were Perazzo and Marion Porterfield.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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