Amsterdam Common Council adopts $38.71 million city budget, mayor still to review

Amsterdam City Hall sign

AMSTERDAM — The Amsterdam Common Council adopted a $38.71 million 2023-24 city budget Tuesday, which will go into effect at the start of the next fiscal year unless any objections are filed by Mayor Michael Cinquanti.

This week, Cinquanti plans to review the Council’s amendments to his initial spending plan before deciding whether to protest any of their revisions. The city charter gives the mayor until noon on June 15 to issue objections. The Council could reconsider contested items or override objections with a four-fifths vote by the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

“I’ve been pretty much in tune with what the Council has been doing. I’m not surprised by anything I’ve seen thus far … They did a good job going through it,” Cinquanti said Wednesday. “I’m very pleased with the end result and I’m hoping my review just confirms that.”

Deputy Mayor and 5th Ward Alderman James Martuscello said the Council balanced needed spending with keeping the tax burden in check at the level initially proposed by the mayor. The Council reviewed Cinquanti’s proposal line-by-line with department heads at workshops throughout May before adopting the finalized city budget at a special meeting on Tuesday.

“The taxpayers always say cut taxes down,” Martuscello said. “We tried, but the price of everything went up and then we still had to buy things … you’ve got to spend a little, that way you’re not hit with a drastic increase in your taxes.”

The adopted $38.71 million 2023-24 city budget represents an 8.91% increase over this fiscal year’s $35.54 million budget. The spending plan anticipates an approximately $3 million appropriation from the city’s water fund balance and a $5.91 million property tax levy.

The budget would increase the tax rate by 17 cents to $19.02 per $1,000 of assessed value. Altogether, user fees would increase by $33.60 to a combined $1,188.14 assessed per dwelling unit. Owners of single-family homes assessed at $100,000 would pay about $50 more to the city next year.

“We worked very, very hard to put together a spending plan that is going to provide Amsterdam the resources it needs to provide basic services and expand some programs and do things that are needed,” Cinquanti said.

The mayor’s proposal maintained staffing and services while covering departmental needs, contractual pay increases, rising insurance costs and debt service fees. Funds were also allocated for economic development initiatives to grow the tax base and fund equipment purchases, including $230,000 to buy a new street sweeper.

“When you cut taxes, you cut services,” Martuscello said. “When people see the sweeper, people will see their taxes at work. City residents are very satisfied with that.”

Adjustments by the Council largely dealt with incorporating cost projections received after the mayor’s proposal was submitted and changes recommended by the state Comptroller’s Office. The mayor’s budget is subject to state review under a 2019 law allowing the city to borrow $7.7 million to finance its accumulated budget deficit.

The largest change the Council made was the addition of $1.3 million in spending in the water fund for a planned project to clear vegetation around the transmission line carrying the city’s raw water supply to the treatment plan on Brookside Avenue from reservoirs in Saratoga County.

Dense growth surrounding the transmission line in some wooded areas could prevent access to it for days in the event of a break. Water pressure would be lost within 24 hours.

The city has received an apparent low bid of $1.25 million to clear foliage. The work has not yet been awarded, but the Council added funding for it to the budget and an equal $1.3 million appropriation from the water fund balance to cover the expense.

“You just can’t put these things off anymore,” Martuscello said, “or else it’s going to come back double and hurt you.”

Another $10,000 was added to the budget for park maintenance and $5,000 was included to replace aging furniture in the council chambers at City Hall. Amsterdam has typically relied on donations or grants to cover the cost of installing new equipment or making upgrades to parks.

The Council made the final changes to the budget last week when they agreed to increase the salaries for the mayor by $10,000 and the city clerk by $1,500. The bump to $51,500 for the city clerk is in line with raises for other non-union staff and 3% raises negotiated recently with the collective bargaining units at City Hall.

Officials agreed the wage for the office of mayor, set at $55,000 in 1997, was past due for a bump to make it more competitive and attract diverse candidates to the important post managing city business. The raise must still be approved by local law later this year before taking effect at the start of the next elected term on Jan. 1.

Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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