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Mayor warns of vetoes, as Amsterdam City Council adopts spending plan

Mayor warns of vetoes, as Amsterdam City Council adopts spending plan

Mayor warns he could put forth several vetoes of budget items
Mayor warns of vetoes, as Amsterdam City Council adopts spending plan
Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa in January 2016.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

AMSTERDAM -- The Amsterdam Common Council on Tuesday night voted 4-1 to approve a $30.9 million 2018-19 budget that carries a 2.43 percent tax levy increase, though Mayor Michael Villa warned the budget process isn't over yet. 

Villa said Wednesday he is going to look at the 20 or so changes the council made to his submitted budget and possibly issue one or more line-item vetoes to undo the changes he thinks are bad for the city. 

"Over the next two weeks, we'll sit down with [Controller Matthew Agresta] and see about a couple of items that I have some concern with, but again, we'll go through the process, and if I have any objections, I will issue my veto recommendations in a timely fashion, so the council will have plenty of time to weigh in on them," Villa said. 

He would not comment on which changes he might veto. Villa's budget proposal sought a tax levy increase of about 8 percent, bringing the city's total levy to $5.7 million. That would have increased the tax rate by $1.16 per $1,000 of assessed property value -- to $17.05.

The budget approved by the council Tuesday night raises the city's tax levy by 2.43 percent, for total revenue of $5.4 million. That boosts the tax rate by 19 cents, to $16.08 per $1,000 of assessed value. 

The mayor also disagreed with the council over user fees, how much of the city's water fund balance to use to balance the budget and how high to project sales tax revenue. 

The council's budget uses $1.65 million of the water fund balance, which is fed by "profits" from water-user fees. That is $450,000 more than the mayor's proposal called for pulling from that fund.

The approved plan approved leaves water rates flat but uses $150,000 in sewer fund money to decrease the annual sewer fees by $5. It also pulls $130,000 from the sanitation fund balance to help reduce a proposed increase in the sanitation fee to about a $3 hike. The council's budget estimates $4.6 million for sales tax revenue, which is $150,000 more than Villa projected. 

Villa said "all options are on the table" for dealing with the accumulated $7.1 million revenue deficit the city has built up over a period of years. 

"I think we have to formulate a plan that is going to address the deficit specifically, so that's either going to have to come from increased revenue, sales tax development, economic growth -- items such as that -- or the only other item that really affects the general fund is public safety. At some point, we are going to have to make decisions that translate into this $7 million deficit being reduced.

"We can't tax our neighbors to death on user fees and not do anything citywide." 

Villa and the Common Council abolished the city's transportation department for the 2018-19 budget year, as a cost-saving move. The department was estimated to have contributed more than $761,019 to the city's $7.1 million deficit.

The city's municipal golf course, which contributed $481,153 to the deficit, remains a part of the city's budget. 

"We gave a one-year contract up at the golf course, so we'll re-evaluate that at the end of the year and see if there is another course of action that can be taken, if that's not successful.

"I have always said from the beginning that I am going to submit and make the decisions that I think are best for the city, and whatever happens happens. I'm not worried about being reelected. This is not a career for me." 

The only no vote for the council's budget was 1st Ward Alderman William Baaki, who said he's also not worried about re-election because he doesn't intend to run in the special election for the 1st Ward seat in November.

Baaki, a Republican, was appointed by the council to serve for one year of the term of Ed Russo, who died while in office in November. 

Baaki said he doesn't believe the people of Amsterdam can handle any more property tax increases, though he said he doesn't have a plan for how to avoid them. He said he's too busy with his work as an attorney to continue in office past the end of this year. 

"It would be extraordinarily presumptuous of me, six months into an appointed tenure as alderman, to say I have all of the answers to the city's fiscal situation," he said. 

Villa said he believes the Common Council will need to apply a supermajority vote of 4-1 to override any of the line-item budget vetoes he issues. He said he has until June 1 to issue those vetoes, and the Common Council has until June 30 to override them. 


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