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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Schenectady City Council Approves $109M Budget, Slightly Past Deadline


1. The Schenectady City Council passed a 2024 budget by a slim 4-3 margin during a special ⁣budget meeting on Monday nightrnn

The Schenectady City‌ Council passed a 2024 budget by a slim 4-3 margin during a special budget meeting on Monday night. The $109 million spending plan got over the ‍finish line 19 days after the city’s Nov. 1 budget deadline.

The approved budget funds the police and‌ fire department overtime lines by $662,873 less than the total requested in Mayor Gary McCarthy’s original budget.

The‌ council-approved version also ​cut McCarthy’s proposed‌ water and sewer fee increases for residents by half, while raising commercial and water sewer ​rates.

City Council President Marion Porterfield and Councilmembers John Mootooveren, Damonni Farley and Carl Williams voted yes on​ the proposed⁢ budget, while Councilmembers Doreen Ditoro, Carmel Patrick and John Polimeni opposed the plan.

McCarthy did not indicate on Monday evening whether he would support the council budget or veto it,​ saying after the meeting that he would review the council budget with city department heads on Tuesday.

The budget passage followed weeks of negotiations​ between the all-Democratic council, with ⁢the spending plan arriving late‌ for the ⁢first time in three decades.

“I know that this budget process took longer than usual and​ the last time ​was ⁤30 years ago,” Porterfield said of the missed deadline,⁢ “but it ‍took that long. We could not get‍ to that place but ​we finally got to a place where we could consider this budget. People talk about fees and we have to consider our taxpayers and how we’re impacting them.”

The Monday night budget vote grew contentious when Polimeni began to explain his budget vote during ‌the roll call vote, with Porterfield contending that his remarks should have been made during the budget discussion that preceded the vote and the council president repeatedly ⁣calling for Polimeni‍ to cast his⁢ vote.

“This budget was a ridiculous process,”‌ Polimeni said during‍ Monday’s meeting. “It was completely political because of the [Nov. 7] election. You sit there and talk about ​the taxpayers, but you’ve done nothing to help the taxpayers.⁣ In ⁢fact, all you’re going to ‌do is create a worse situation for taxpayers in 2025, 2026 and onward. You’ve taken away the ability of the⁤ mayor ‌and the staff to do the management that they require and that they should be able to do.”

The budget utilizes $7.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, marking the ⁣last year that the city will be ⁤able​ to ⁤balance the budget with ARPA monies.

The approved budget reduces the overtime line ​for the police field service ⁢bureau from the $2.5 million in‌ McCarthy’s proposal to $2.2 million. The 2023 budget included $1.5 million in overtime funding for the bureau. The council ‍reduced overtime pay in 2024 for the ‌police investigation unit from $990,000 in McCarthy’s proposed budget to $913,000, ⁣still above the $775,000 budgeted for overtime ⁢in 2023.

The​ approved 2024 budget also reduced the fire department’s ​overtime from the original McCarthy proposal of $1.57⁣ million down to $1.27 million,⁢ but still above ⁢the $860,588 included in the 2023 budget.

Patrick, Polimeni and Ditoro had opposed police and fire overtime cuts throughout⁢ the budget negotiations and ultimately voted no on the proposed budget.

“It was more challenging than‍ not ⁤sometimes,” Williams said of the budget process during Monday’s meeting. “I’m confident that this presented budget⁣ reflects the ability of‌ myself — ‍speaking ​for myself —⁢ to meet in the middle and present a budget that best meets the considerations of the city of Schenectady.”

The approved plan also uses $3.9 million in fund balance in the general fund, with⁤ the ⁢council allocating an additional $156,000 in fund ⁤balance beyond McCarthy’s original proposal.

“Where is all of this money going to come from in 2025?” Polimeni asked on Monday. “They’re building in deficits ​in the budget and, ⁤on top ‍of that, it’s just fiscally irresponsible.”

The ​plan includes an $8 annual increase in water​ fees for residents and a $37 per year increase in sewer fees, with the council cutting McCarthy’s original proposed fee increases by 50%.

The budget does not include McCarthy’s proposal to raise city residents’ waste⁤ collection fee $1.50 per week.

“It’s not right for us to‌ pass the spending on to the back of the ordinary taxpayers,” said Mootooveren, who chairs the council’s Finance Committee. “I think the discussion was fruitful and everybody at the [council] table had an opportunity to discuss [the budget].”

The budget ⁤fills gaps in the water and sewer funds with fund balance ‍from each department, with the plan utilizing $873,734 in fund balance from the sewer fund and $198,405 from the water fund.

The budget includes a 26% increase in commercial water ​rates and a 39% ⁣increase in commercial​ sewer meter rates.

The⁤ approved budget includes a salary increase for ‌council members, raising members’ annual ‍stipends 16% from $14,100 per year to $16,356..

“How can these council members justify pay raises in a budget that’s ⁢three weeks late?” Schenectady Republican⁣ Party Chair Tom Kennedy asked on Monday. “They violated the⁤ city charter and they⁢ aren’t looking towards next year.”

The budget eliminates nine vacant city jobs,⁢ including a fleet manager job from the city garage, a data processing position and an assistant to the corporation ​counsel position.

Rafael Torres
Rafael Torres
Rafael Torres, a native of Schenectady, has returned to his hometown after several years of reporting in the Midwest. A graduate of Missouri School of Journalism, Alex is known for his empathetic approach to local news, covering everything from community events to local governance, always with an aim to bridge diverse perspectives.
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  1. Agree. It’s good to see Schenectady City Council taking action even if it’s slightly past deadline. Progress over perfection always.

  2. Disagree. They should have gotten everything done on time. Taking longer to approve it is irresponsible and could lead to budgeting issues.

  3. I’m with PixelPanda24 on this one. Ensuring progress is always more important than adhering to strict deadlines. The city council is doing their due diligence, and we should appreciate their efforts to make informed decisions. After all, it’s our $109M they’re handling.


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