SCHENECTADY — Mayor Gary McCarthy’s proposed 2021 budget calls for 63 staff reductions, including nine police officer and seven firefighter positions that are currently vacant.
Several city departments also would go without high-ranking positions that remain unfilled, including an assistant corporation counsel and deputy commissioner of finance.
Included in the proposed cuts are 47 positions that have been left empty amid a hiring freeze McCarthy implemented as a result of the financial crisis caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The cuts would result in $3 million in cost savings.
The city’s Codes Department is among the hardest hit when it comes to axing positions that are currently filled.
Under McCarthy’s proposed spending plan, two code enforcement officers would lose their jobs, as well as a clerk and assistant building inspector.
In addition to those cuts, two vacant code enforcement officer positions would remain unfilled as well as a codes supervisor.
The proposed budget also calls for the elimination of a crime analyst, two painters and part-time crossing guards, according to materials provided by the mayor’s office.
Altogether, the elimination of the 16 positions would result in savings of $877,541.
To help bridge the $12 million shortfall, McCarthy has proposed a property tax increase of 2.82 percent, as well as increases in commercial and residential waste disposal fees.
McCarthy said the plan was crafted without anticipation of a federal relief package that would aid local governments.
“If we got some assistance, we’d be able to move to a better position,” said McCarthy following his budget presentation on Thursday afternoon.
The $87.68 million budget carries a $3.4 million reduction in general fund expenditures from this year’s spending plan.
At the same time, it contains a $1.14 million increase in the property tax levy, which is proposed at $31,413,411 — the highest allowable under the state tax cap.
The proposed tax rate increase marks a reversal of a five-year trend. The rate would increase 36 cents to $13.13 per $1,000 in assessed value, which would amount to $36 annually for a property assessed at $100,000.
Despite the increase, the number remains below the 2015 rate, which was $13.88.
Water and sewer fees will stay flat, but McCarthy is proposing to increase both residential and commercial trash collection fees, from $224 to $274 annually.
Residential units qualifying for exemptions would see an increase of $115 to $137.
Salaries and wages for management and non-union employees will stay flat.
The city borrowed $7 million last week, a move McCarthy has said was necessary to avert the large-scale layoffs he forecasted in April, including up to 27 firefighters and 40 police officers.
McCarthy expects revenue to remain diminished well into next year, including a $2.2 million reduction in state aid, a $580,000 decrease in revenue from Rivers Casino & Resort and a $514,000 drop in sales tax.
The mayor also said health care and retirement costs are expected to climb next year.
This year the state has withheld $2.2 million in aid; $1.9 million in anticipated casino revenue has evaporated, and the city has lost millions in sales tax and property tax revenue.
The city also saw a $725,000 dip in property sales this year, but hopes to recoup some of that next year with the sale of some of its 69 properties currently listed on the market with a total value of $2.6 million.
McCarthy said the decreased revenues have been paired with an increase in coronavirus-related spending that has not been reimbursed by the federal government, including $475,000 for computers allowing staffers to work remotely and sanitation materials.
McCarthy also said the city incurred $200,000 in costs related to the Black Lives Matter protests this summer.
City Council must adopt the budget by Nov. 1.
2021 PROPOSED BUDGET BY THE NUMBERS
- Projected revenue shortfall: $12 million
- Job cuts: 63 (47 vacant, 16 filled)
- Proposed property tax rate increase: 2.82 percent
- Proposed tax rate: $13.13, up from $12.77
- Property tax levy: $31,413,411 (up $1,143,739)
- Proposed WASTE collection increase, residential: $224 to $274 annually