The Schenectady City Council is rebuilding the Community Development Block Grant budget from the ground up, trying to find a way to fit in all the programs it wants to fund.
Council President Margaret King began a discussion of the proposed spending plan Monday by saying that the council is “definitely not all on the same page at this point.”
Councilwoman Denise Brucker wanted to direct some money to the school district for reading programs.
King and Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said the city should approve a request from the Community Loan Fund to open a part-time office in Schenectady so that more homeowners and small business owners could get advice and apply for loans.
But Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo noted that county residents can get help from the center now at its Albany office.
Councilman Carl Erikson wanted to put much more into the budget for road paving, saying that $300,000 is “not nearly enough.” The city spent $500,000 on roads from the Community Development Block Grant last year.
“Reducing that section seems counterproductive,” he said.
Director of Development Richard Purga also proposed adding $3,000 to the Schenectady Inner City Ministry summer lunch program and $19,260 to the operation of the city pools.
Council members defended their plans vehemently, but no one suggested any way to cut other programs so that they could fund their own proposals.
Instead, they argued about which programs should be funded at all.
King said the school district shouldn’t get funded because it did not file a application.
But Brucker said the council has intervened in the past when a need came up suddenly.
Schools Superintendent Laurence Spring has said that 6,000 students in the district are reading below grade level. In recent budget presentations, he said the district needs 18 more reading specialists than it can afford to hire.
Mayor Gary McCarthy threw his support behind the Community Loan Fund, which he said would help the city by offering loans for renovations.
That would dovetail with his proposal to demolish 100 of the most blighted buildings in the city, he said.
“We would have an overall better outcome if we worked with the loan fund,” McCarthy said.
He also wants to spend about $50,000 a year in Community Development Block Grant money to fund his demolition plan. The CDBG funds, paired with a county grant, would pay back a $3 million demolition loan over the next 20 years.
But some council members balked at reserving $50,000 of the CDBG for the next 20 years, saying that it’s hard enough now to agree on how to spend the $2.8 million federal grant without cutting that by $50,000.