Schenectady

Schenectady mayor unveils proposed 2023 budget

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy presents his Proposed 2023 Budget in September.
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Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy presents his Proposed 2023 Budget in September.

SCHENECTADY City of Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy unveiled a proposed 2023 budget to the city council on Friday that includes $103,929,258 in spending and no increase in city property taxes.

The proposed budget represents a six-percent increase over last year’s approved $97,362,233 budget.

The proposed budget features a $31,629,000 tax levy, a $20,000 increase over the adopted 2022 budget. During his budget presentation at City Hall to the council, McCarthy noted the stability of the tax levy over the last decade, as the proposed levy is only $12,000 higher than the adopted levy in 2015.

The proposed property tax rate in 2023 would remain flat at $12.99 per $1,000 assessed home value.

“It projects an image of stability in the city’s finances,” McCarthy said of the tax rate following the presentation. “We’re fortunate for the economic development that has happened here and the work that city staff does that we’re able to put that forward today.”

The mayor’s plan includes a proposed $1 per week increase for waste collection fees, with the proposed waste budget due to rise $1.8 million in 2023.

“Our garbage collection is a great service that we provide every week to the residents of this city,” McCarthy told the council. “Our new labor agreement with the 737 (union) and other related costs are increasing the expense there.”

The proposed budget also includes a water rate increase of $12.97 per year for city residents and a sewer rate increase of $25.24 per year, with the city attributing the water increase to capital project upgrades to the city’s water wells, with the sewer increase tied to debt service payments for the North Ferry Street pumping station and the wastewater treatment plant.

“We’ve made major investments in our water and sewer infrastructure in recent years,” McCarthy said during the presentation. “To keep these funds balanced, I’m proposing an approximate $1 per month increase in water rates for the average house in the city and an approximate $2 per month increase in our sewer rates.”

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Last year’s approved $97.5 million spending plan included the restoration of 47 vacant city positions that were eliminated from the 2021 budget due to pandemic-related cuts.

The proposed budget includes 538 jobs, 15 more than were included in the approved 2022 budget, though McCarthy said staffing numbers will remain relatively level in the coming year.

“Sometimes when we hire seasonal employees, sometimes we’ll hire more for a shorter period of time and sometimes it’s fewer for a little bit longer,” he said after the meeting. “So the staffing level is basically the same from the 2022 budget as what I submitted to the council today for 2023.”

The proposed spending plan includes a $738,145 increase in fire and police retirement benefits and $260,000 in increased fuel and oil costs.

“We’ve had a growth there, but for the first time we’ve signed all of our collective bargaining agreements with the exception of the PBA (Police Benevolent Association) and we’re going back to the table with them this year,”

McCarthy said of the $6 million general fund increase. “So those numbers reflect those contract settlements and our projected expenses going forward.”

The proposed 2023 plan includes $5,870,079 in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, with $3,826,556 set aside for personnel spending, with $793,335 requested by the mayor to fund police staffing.

The 2022 budget included the use of $4,347,739 of ARPA funding in order to restore staffing levels to pre-pandemic levels. The city was allocated $52.97 million in ARPA funding in the aftermath of the pandemic.

“The money coming in is to create stability and it’s one of the items we can use ARPA money for,” McCarthy said after the budget presentation. “That’s my recommendation to the council to use that to not have to draw on other funds or resources that the city has at this point in time.”

The proposed plan includes $2.75 million in revenue from housing sales, up from the $1.2 million recorded in 2022 but down from a level of $3 million in revenue in 2020, which represented a 10-year high.

“Distressed property still drives many of the costs in our city budget,” McCarthy told the council. “The court system put foreclosures on hold during COVID and we’re now restarting our foreclosure process.”

As required by city law, the mayor submitted the budget proposal to the council one day before the Oct. 1 deadline, with the council needing to approve a budget by Nov. 1.

“Every budget since I’ve been here, we’ve done it on the last day of September,” McCarthy said following the event. “The way it used to be, the budget wasn’t released until midnight and it was delivered by the police to the city council members’ doors. So we’ve opened this up and it’s to conform to what the charter says.”

The proposal now heads to the city council for prospective budget amendments in the run up to a final budget vote.

“The council has the final say in it,” McCarthy said after the budget reveal. “They’ll go through it on a line-by-line basis and department heads will come in and go over what their requests are, with underlying documentation to support those requests. Then the council will make the final decision.”

More: All NewsEverything Schenectady

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