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0.53% tax cut proposed in 2019 Schenectady budget

0.53% tax cut proposed in 2019 Schenectady budget

Mayor presents 2019 spending plan to Council
0.53% tax cut proposed in 2019 Schenectady budget
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy gives his proposed budget presentation to the City Council Monday
Photographer: Erica Miller/Daily Gazette Photographer

Editor's note: This story was corrected at 10:49 a.m. on Oct. 2, 2018. An earlier version included an incorrect location for the Oct. 4 town hall-style meeting regarding the budget proposal.

SCHENECTADY — City property owners would see a 0.53 percent property tax cut under Mayor Gary McCarthy’s proposed budget for 2019.

McCarthy presented his $86.8 million spending plan to City Council members on Monday. It avoids any layoffs and even fills some vacant positions but still offers the slight tax decrease. The budget also cuts some spending for Police, Fire and other departments.

McCarthy touted his budget as continuing to cut taxes for the fourth year in a row — a total of 5.8 percent since 2015.

The tax rate for 2019 is proposed to be $13.08 per $1,000 assessed value.

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City Finance Commissioner Anthony Ferrari said he was most excited not about the tax cuts for the last few years, but what’s been happening to property values.

In 2015, the total taxable assessed value for the city was approximately $2.28 billion. In 2019, it’s projected to be $2.35 billion.

“To me, this is like the greatest thing to see,” Ferrari said. “As the tax rates are going down, the values of properties are going up. As a city leader, that’s what you’re trying to accomplish.”

McCarthy said this result was thanks in part to working with the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority. It has led to the revitalization of the city’s downtown area, which McCarthy said is beginning to spread into other parts of the city.

“Really, we’re at the point where sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the announcements of new businesses and venues that are moving into or expanding within the city of Schenectady,” McCarthy said.

The tax levy is proposed to be at around $30.75 million, which is $30,000 less than what it was in the 2018 budget.

Video of Mayor Gary McCarthy's budget message

The city said it is expecting to see an increase of $285,839 in casino revenue, bringing the projected amount from approximately $2.28 million in 2018 to $2.56 million in 2019.

“We’re budgeting for more in [2019] than we did in [2018], so we’re seeing positive trends there,” McCarthy said. “We’re happy to have the casino. It’s millions of dollars more than we had before.”

There were some slight cuts proposed to the police and fire budgets, McCarthy said,

The proposed 2019 Police Department budget is $19.73 million, a decrease of $3,235 from 2018. The proposed 2019 Fire Department budget is $11.16 million, down $316,582 from 2018.

This is because the city will not be sending as many people to the individual training academies, Ferrari said.

“They’re still sending guys to the academy, just not as many,” Ferrari said.

McCarthy is proposing to cut the Department of General Services’ budget by approximately $59,000. However, there will be two additional street maintenance crew leader positions added, as well as two more SNAP employees, who are responsible for maintaining vacant properties.

McCarthy noted there are approximately 780 vacant properties in Schenectady, 194 of them owned by the city. He said the city plans to do a better job of dealing with those properties in the coming year.

This was good news for independent Councilman Vince Riggi, who said concerns about vacant properties not being managed are what he hears about the most from residents.

“That’s where I get a lot of complaints,” Riggi said. “Two positions is not a lot, but it’s four more hands.”

McCarthy noted in his proposed budget he expects to see $200,000 more in revenue from the sale of city-owned homes, bringing that total from $1.4 million budgeted in 2018 to $1.6 million in 2019.

“We’re putting properties back on the tax rolls and improving neighborhoods,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy also proposed to increase the city’s Code Enforcement Bureau from $986,047 to approximately $1.2 million. This includes the addition of two new full-time code enforcement officers.

This is part of a continued effort to restructure the bureau after a fatal March 2015 fire, which claimed the lives of four residents.

“We’re looking at better data collection, better managed resources to drive higher quality outcomes,” McCarthy said.

City Councilman John Polimeni, chairman of the council’s finance committee, said he was pleased the budget did feature a tax cut.

“I was hopeful there would be a small cut, and there was,” he said.

The city will be hosting a series of town hall-style meetings this week, leading up to a public hearing on the budget on Oct. 9.

The meetings will be: Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Fairview Avenue; Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Steinmetz Park Multi-purpose Room on Lenox Road; and Oct. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at The Bridge Christian Church on Crane Street.

There will also be budget hearings Oct. 10, 11, 16 and 17 in City Hall from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Polimeni said the council will continue to go through the budget and make any changes it deems necessary during those hearings. But he also said he’s looking forward to the town hall sessions with residents.

“We hope to get a lot of feedback from our town halls as well,” Polimeni said.

The city must approve its budget on or before Nov. 1.

BUDGET PROPOSAL

                            2018                 2019

Total Spending:   $85.2M             $86.8M

Tax Levy:             $30,782,656     $30,752,680

Tax Rate:             $13.15              $13.08

Exceed tax Cap:  No                     No

 

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