The Amsterdam Common Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to request the New York State Financial Restructuring Board certify the city's longstanding budget deficit, a crucial first step in obtaining deficit financing.
City Controller Matt Agresta told the council the city needs the Financial Restructuring Board, which is a part of the New York State Comptrollers Office, to certify the size of the deficit before any deficit financing legislation can be requested from the New York state Legislature.
"Up until this year, we were not giving [the Comptroller's Office] enough information with our financials over a long enough period of time for us to even be eligible to ask the question. If I had tried to do this a year ago — or two or three or four — they would have said don't bother," Agresta said.
Amsterdam in recent years hired the independent audit firm the EFPR Group to help clarify the city's finances after years of independent bookkeeping practices. Agresta said during his tenure he has filed four complete audit reports to the Comptroller's Office, enough to provide a record on which to certify the size of Amsterdam's deficit.
"They have to come out to certify our deficits, so that we have an accurate number to pursue when looking to borrow against the deficit financing," Agresta said.
The city of Amsterdam has been grappling with an approximately $9 million budget deficit built up over a period of years. In January the city's municipal consultant Jeffrey Smith told the council its best option was to obtain special legislation from New York state to borrow the amount of the budget deficit and pay it off over time, while raising property taxes substantially.
Mayor Michael Villa has indicated he intends to propose a property tax levy increase in accordance with Smith's advice, possibly in the 10 to 12 percent range. Villa said he doesn't know how long it will take to obtain permission from the state legislature to obtain deficit financing. He said the city's 2019-20 budget process will proceed according to its normal schedule without respect to the deficit finance plan.
"I submit my budget April 1, and the Aldermen will make whatever adjustments they feel they need to make. We're going to have to do what we have to do regardless. Lets say the money was there, we still have to address paying that down, if it's not there we still have address lowering the deficit — so, the quicker it happens, the better it is for us," Villa said.
Agresta said he has begun familiarizing himself with the online submission process on the Comptroller's website for the city's financial information. He said so far it includes upload screens and no interpersonal interaction.
"I'm sure at some point I'm sure we will have human conversations, but at what point that will be, I have no idea, having never done this before," he said.
Golfcourse clubhouse repairs
The Common Council Tuesday accepted a $25,000 insurance payment from the New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal for damages done to the city's Municipal Golf Course clubhouse in early February when some water pipes burst and three feet of water accumulated in the building.
Villa said the payment was "an advance" on the city's total claim, and will help to repay the city for replacement of the furnaces in the building. He said the total cost of repairs at the clubhouse have not yet been determined.
"We're going through the process, like any other [insurance] claim. When they finalize their report, we'll know exactly what we're getting," Villa said. "Right now we're in the architectural phase of the rebuild, we're cleaning everything up and getting things ready for the rebuild. We're going to need to know a dollar amount on what we're receiving before we can make complete repairs."