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What you need to know for 08/22/2017

Same old story in Schenectady

Same old story in Schenectady

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: The city of Schenectady is going to get serious about cracking down on parking scofflaws, raising upwards of $230,000 in the process.

Yup, it was exactly a year ago that McCarthy was promoting a plan to collect up to $2.3 million in outstanding parking fines — and he “conservatively” plugged $230,000 in revenue from the plan into his budget proposal. At the time, we were skeptical about the budget strategy primarily because of the city’s long history of failing to take scofflawism of all stripes seriously.

The City Council went along, though, and even engaged (for 25 percent of the take) a debt collection agency.

So what happened? A year later, Police Chief Brian Kilcullen reports to the City Council that due to bureaucratic problems, the ticket collection program hasn’t brought in a single dime yet. But not to worry, the snafu has been fixed and the plan is ready to go. So another $230K is being plugged into next year’s budget.

The city launched a similar crackdown in 2003, when unpaid fines totaled just $1.2 million, and brought in a whopping $11,000 before giving up the ghost.

Another tired joke in Schenectady involves police overtime: The council habitually under-budgets, and the department habitually overspends. Last year was the only exception in recent memory, but the situation under new chief Brian Kilcullen once again seems out of control: $750,000 was budgeted, but as of the end of September, more than $1.1 million has already been spent.

As in years past, City Council was treated to the usual excuses Tuesday night: After detectives who used to put in for oodles of overtime got reined in, they simply switched back to the patrol division and are making more costly overtime than before.

So instead of budgeting just $750,000 for next year, the council has bumped it to $850,000. But unless McCarthy delivers Kilcullen a stern message, and that message gets passed on to the troops, the City Council might just as well write a blank check for all the good its budgeting does.

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