AMSTERDAM -- The Amsterdam Common Council on Monday voted unanimously to override the city’s property tax cap and approve a $35.3 million 2020-21 budget with a 4.18 percent tax rate increase.
The budget increases the city’s tax rate by 73 cents, to $18.10 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The final tax rate number is about 8 cents lower than Mayor Michael Cinquanti’s original budget proposal given to the council earlier this month.
City Controller Matt Agresta provided the council with a list of the changes it had made over two days of budget hearings last week. The changes enabled the 8 cent reduction in the tax rate increase.
These are all of the changes from Cinquanti’s budget implemented by the council:
- $4,000 reduction for the cost of running the city pool for this summer.
- $10,000 increase in payroll expenses to the police department budget to allow for a sergeant to be elevated to lieutenant to help with management of the department when new Police Chief John “JJ” Thomas is absent.
- $15,000 decrease to the fire department overtime budget.
- $32,000 increase for the seasonal vegetation payroll in the city’s Recreation Tourism and Marketing department.
- $5,000 revenue reduction for the recreation department’s events budget.
- $251,371 reduction to the city’s water fund transfer, leaving it at $1.34 million. This reduction was enabled by the city obtaining a 1.89 percent interest rate on its $7.7 million deficit finance bond, which was less than the projected 6 percent interest rate.
- $26,895 reduction in fire department spending, due to salary savings for several trainees who won’t report for duty until later in the city’s budget cycle than originally anticipated.
- $50,000 increase in the expense for sludge transportation; this was paid for through an increase in the annual city sewer rate.
- $20,000 reduction in interest expense for the city’s sewer fund, this money was also used to help pay for the increased sludge transport costs.
- $30,000 decrease to the general fund’s subsidy for the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, reducing it to $115,259. The reduction is from the interest rate break for the deficit bond. The savings was also applied to the sludge transportation costs.
Some additional changes to the budget include the addition of two $50,000 per year salaries — one for an information technology specialist for city hall and one for an assistant position for Amanda Bearcroft, Amsterdam’s community and economic development director. The council agreed to both additions during budget hearings, but they were not included in Agresta’s list of changes to the budget.
Both of those new positions are funded across all of the city’s funds, not only the general fund and the tax levy, and the expense from them is partially accounted for in the $10.91 increase to the city’s annual sewer fee, taking it to $310.84, and a $10.42 hike to the annual sanitation fee, which brings that to $280.15.
The city’s annual water rate remains flat at $423.89, the third budget in a row without an increase.
The council overrode the tax cap and approved the budget during a special meeting conducted via Zoom, which was live streamed on the city’s Facebook page.
During the meeting, Cinquanti waived his right to attempt to veto any of the changes made by the council, effectively ending the city’s budget process Monday, canceling a council meeting that would have taken place today.
“It has been a different kind of process this year. I’m very, very pleased with the end result,” Cinquanti said. “I think it represents a couple of scenarios that we have to be ready for, and I think we are ready.”
Deputy Mayor James Martuscello, who represents the 5th Ward, said he believes the budget process went more smoothly than at any time during his tenure on the council, and he credited part of that with Cinquanti’s attendance during all of the budget hearings.