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What you need to know for 08/21/2017

Mayor may veto Schenectady budget

Mayor may veto Schenectady budget

Mayor McCarthy will make a decision late this afternoon after a meeting with City Council President

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy is thinking about vetoing the budget that his Democratic colleagues spent weeks rewriting.

He will make a decision late this afternoon after a meeting with City Council President Denise Brucker and Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo.

The council could override a veto with five votes and save the budget it approved last week. However, with Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard still recovering from a medical problem in a rehabilitation hospital, there are only six council members available for a vote. If McCarthy can persuade two of them not to override, his original budget would go into effect.

McCarthy stressed that he hasn’t yet decided whether to veto the council budget, and won’t decide until after he speaks with Perazzo and Brucker.

Both women said they might support his veto.

“We’ll see what happens. I’m going to talk to him,” Brucker said. “I want to hear what his concerns are. It depends on his concerns.”

Perazzo added that some of the council’s changes to the budget were “really good.”

But, she said, she wouldn’t immediately oppose a veto.

“I think before [an override vote] I would want to know why the mayor wanted to veto it,” she said. “I would want to hear what his reasoning was.”

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield, who just won election Tuesday, said she had not been informed of the possible veto.

“But I’m going to call him now,” she said, adding that she preferred the council’s budget to the mayor’s original proposal.

In a veto-override situation, the only two choices would be to accept the mayor’s original budget or override to keep the council’s final budget. However, council members retain the authority to make adjustments to the budget at any time, so alterations could be made after a vote.

But the approved budget is what is used to set the tax rate. If the city reverts to the mayor’s original budget, and alterations are not made immediately, taxpayers will see a tax increase of 4.1 percent.

The council’s budget has a tax increase of 1.7 percent.

Councilman Vince Riggi, the only non-Democrat on the council, said he would vote to override a veto even though he voted against the council’s budget.

He said he had wanted further cuts to the budget, but would rather have a 1.7 percent tax increase than a 4.1 percent increase.

“It’s certainly better for the taxpayers than 4.1,” he said.

He added that he wasn’t happy with apparent padding in the mayor’s original budget. Vehicle leases were overstated and other expenses were pegged to rise far higher than the trend for the last few years.

“There’s no way that can be justified, particularly the leases,” Riggi said. “I’m not happy with the [mayor’s] budget as it was because we were not told the truth.”

The council reduced those items to what fired Budget Analyst Jason Cuthbert said was a reasonable amount.

Cuthbert worked on the budget with both Riggi and Councilman Carl Erikson, the finance committee chairman, and almost all of his proposals were incorporated into the final budget. Cuthbert worked behind the scenes after being fired after publicly disagreeing with the mayor on the city-county sales tax agreement. Cuthbert argued the new contract would hurt the city; McCarthy said it was the best deal possible for both the city and the county.

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