Schenectady

Schenectady passes $97M budget; No increase in city property taxes

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SCHENECTADY — The City Council on Monday approved a $97.5 million budget with no increase in city property taxes while incorporating more than $225,000 in changes suggested by council members since Mayor Gary McCarthy announced the spending plan earlier this month.

The council-led changes include the addition of three neighborhood senior centers and a pair of nuisance inspector positions. Including McCarthy’s plan to restore 45 jobs that were cut due to the coronavirus pandemic, the city now aims to add 47 jobs in 2022.

In addition, four members of the Fire Department were promoted, and a public hearing was held to change the name of the road on which the Museum of Innovation & Science (miSci) is located.

Last week, a council committee approved the addition of senior center programs in the Bellevue, Goose Hill and Hamilton Hill neighborhoods, at a cost of $45,000 to the city under a proposed pilot program.

Council Majority Leader John Polimeni and Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas said they advocated for the new senior programming.  The senior centers aren’t expected to be operational until the middle of the year, Polimeni said in an interview.

Calling it a major budget inclusion, Polimeni said he would like for next year’s council to include the senior centers in the 2023 budget if the 2022 pilot is successful.

Additional council-led changes include the two nuisance inspector positions, at a cost of just under $70,000, and additional funding for police and fire community outreach programs with city youth.

McCarthy’s proposal to add 45 jobs across various departments, including police officers, firefighters, code enforcement, clerical-support positions, and information technology posts, will bring the city to 520 employees.

However, the mayor has acknowledged that it may be difficult to hire that many employees given the nationwide challenge of filling available jobs across multiple sectors.

In his original presentation, McCarthy said city residents won’t see an increase in taxes even as he proposed a 10% increase in the city’s spending.

Zalewski-Wildzunas expressed regret about others things she wanted that were not added to the budget, such as a quality-of-life unit in the Police Department and lighting in Central Park.

But she said the budget underscored how the council listens to residents.

Council President John Mootooveren said the unanimous passage of the city budget for a second year in a row showed that the sometimes divided panel can work together.

Mootooveren called the budget “a well-thought process” that would allow the mayor to “build on Schenectady’s success.” 

The four Fire Department promotions were:

– Sean Froehlich, a 13-year department veteran who rose from firefighter to lieutenant. The father of three was named Schenectady County “Paramedic of the Year” in 2016 and is a member of the department’s Honor Guard, assigned to the 2nd Platoon. 

– Gregory Macherone, a 16-year department veteran, who rose from lieutenant to captain, is a New York State fire instructor and president of the Schenectady Permanent Firefighters Association. He is assigned to Engine 4 on the 4th Platoon. Macherone is married with two children.

– Joshua Canelli was promoted from lieutenant to captain. Canelli was hired by the department in March 2006 and had served as lieutenant since 2014. Assigned to Truck 2 on the 3rd Platoon, Canelli is married with two children. 

– David Massaro, a 21-year veteran of the department, was promoted from captain to deputy chief. He heads the department’s special operations division. Massaro had served as captain since October 2014. He’s married with two children. 

During the public hearing, Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen requested that the road on which the Museum of Innovation & Science is located be changed from Nott Terrace Heights to Museum Drive.

Gillen said the change would make it easier for people to find the museum via their cellphones and directional devices.

The museum, founded in 1934, has had an address of 15 Nott Terrace Heights since 1969.

According to Gillen, the present address “is confusing” to visitors because of other similarly named locations in the city: Nott Terrace, Nott Street and the Nott Memorial at Union College.

The museum is the only building on the street.

The former location of the Nott Terrace High School athletic fields, the 44,720-square-foot museum includes gallery space, the Suits-Beuche Planetarium and classrooms.

In another matter, a procession of residents asked McCarthy to return a replica of the Statue of Liberty to its former long-time location in Liberty Park, now known as Gateway Plaza.

The statue, which arrived in Schenectady in 1950 by way of a Boy Scouts fundraising effort, was moved to the corner of Erie Boulevard and Union Street in 2019 after a redesign of the park began in 2017.

Chris Morris, director of the advocacy group Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change, likened Lady Liberty to a “special tenant” and McCarthy to  “landlord” who had uprooted her to just below train tracks on “one of the busiest and inappropriate street corners” in the city.

“What an absolute disservice and disrespect to such a well-loved member of our community seeking peace and tranquility,” Morris said.

McCarthy has said that the statue had been neglected and was often urinated on at its former location.

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766. 

Categories: News, Schenectady County

2 Comments

VINCE RIGGI

Adding 8.9 million to a budget is nothing to crow about. Did the city council ever hear of a tax decrease? The addition of a deputy commissioner of general services position, which was never needed in the past is something that should have been deeply scrutinized and eliminated, which appears to be over 100k. The mayor admits that it will be difficult to find new hires, but the city is adding a new supervisory position in spite of that. Also not included in story is huge pay raise for the finance director who know doubt will retire in a couple of years, so that is a gift that will keep on giving in pension benefits for future budgets to contend with. Deeply disappointed in the city council for not giving us a tax break while adding 8.9 million to this budget. We will no doubt pay for this in future budgets with tax increases.

DAVID GIACALONE

Thanks, Vince. As for Lady Liberty, I am disappointed that the Gazette repeated the Mayor’s ridiculous urnination excuse. No wonder Mayor McCarthy thinks he can give nonsense replies to the press and public rather than explain his apparently irrational actions.

If anyone ever urinated on the Liberty replica while it was in Liberty Park, it was when overgrown bushes and weeds allowed homeless people to sleep and spend the day in the Park and feel invisible to the outside. That was WHY the city wanted to redesign the Park, and make it more visible and safe.

Prior urination did not stop the Gateway Plaza design team, steering committee, and the public from wanting Lady Liberty to return aftern the reconstruction. It is not why the Mayor went against the approved Comprehensive Plan he had signed and failed to return Lady Liberty. And, it certainly is not why he chose such an undesirable location for Her exile.

Today’s article toss away line about the Mayor, urination and the Statue did a disservice to your readers and to the hope that the press can help keep politicians honest and responsive.

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