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What you need to know for 01/19/2018

Amsterdam assistant recreation director given additional hours and salary

Amsterdam assistant recreation director given additional hours and salary

Assistant Recreation Director Rebecca Cushing will be spending more time at City Hall and less worki

Assistant Recreation Director Rebecca Cushing will be spending more time at City Hall and less working from home without pay thanks to a recent decision by Amsterdam’s Common Council.

She was hired part-time last fall to help out overworked Recreation Director Rob Spagnola.

As city-run youth programming expanded at the former Bacon Elementary School and classes started up at the Creative Connections Art Center, she and Spagnola both found themselves working extra hours.

At Tuesday night’s budget workshop, the Common Council decided to make her position full-time.

“I’m very passionate about activities in the city,” Cushing said, “especially after the recent tragedies. I was always taking my work home. I know it sounds contrived, but it really wasn’t about the money. I just think the youth of Amsterdam will benefit from me working more hours.”

Cushing’s current salary is $10,000 a year for 20 hours a week. Pending a civil service exam, she’ll be bumped up to a 40-hour schedule.

She didn’t actually know how much the new salary would be, but Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas said it came in somewhere in the range of $23,000 to $24,000 a year.

Spagnola also was approved for a raise at Tuesday night’s meeting. Dybas said it was an increase of roughly $5,000 designed to bring him to the same level as most other city department heads, but he did not provide a total figure.

In a statement released prior to the meeting, Mayor Ann Thane asked city residents to call their aldermen and plead the Recreation Department’s case.

“In under a year [Cushing] has brought in $25,000 in revenues for programming,” Thane wrote, “all for 20 hours a week and $10,000 a year. ... Imagine what she could do in 40 hours?”

Dybas said Wednesday he opposed the decision to increase Cushing’s hours.

“I’m not for any raises,” he said, “I’m just wondering when we’re going to start making cuts.”

The proposed $28 million city budget must be approved next month.

With scheduled workshops winding down, Dybas said there’s a $700,000 hole remaining.

Dybas said the state has offered a pension amortization plan that would allow the city to effectively borrow against its contribution to the pension fund.

“Our pension contribution in 2013-14 will be $2.5 million,” he said. “The state will essentially allow us to borrow $700,000 of that and pay them back over the next 12 years with interest.”

So far, he said, the budget is balanced on the assumption amortization will be used, but he doesn’t think the council will opt in.

“So we have bigger fish to fry,” he said.

In the midst of budget season and Dybas’ worries, Cushing was still happy about her promotion. Over the summer, she and Spagnola will be heading up a host of summer activities at the Bacon youth center, Creative Connections and across the city.

“We’ve got a lot to do,” she said.

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