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Friday, April 19, 2024

Schenectady Council Considers Increasing Rent for LaFond Residence


SCHENECTADY — The city council is considering ⁤a rent⁤ increase for⁣ city property occupied by Commissioner of General Services Paul LaFond, with the city assessor’s ​office⁢ set⁢ to provide guidance on the matter.

LaFond​ currently resides in a single-family home at the city-owned Bevis Hill Reservoir on Balltown⁤ Road ‌at Niskayuna.

As per a lease approved by the city council ‌in 2015, the city employee occupying the property is required to pay a monthly rent of $500, a figure that has remained unchanged ‌since then.

City Council President ⁤Marion Porterfield ⁢has suggested a ⁣rent hike at the facility in light ‍of the city’s revenue deficit as it prepares for the 2025 budget cycle.

The city had utilized $7.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding in the 2024 budget, but ⁣this federal funding will not be available for future budgets.

“Given the increased costs associated ⁣with the property, ‍I believe it’s time we consider raising the rent,” Porterfield‍ stated during the council’s Finance Committee‌ meeting on Tuesday evening.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Sean O’Brien suggested that the​ council could seek advice from City Assessor Molly MacElroy or ‍a ⁢real⁣ estate agent to ‌determine ⁢the market-rate ‌rent for the⁢ city-owned property.

“This would ‌provide a benchmark, allowing us to consider the other intangibles of having‍ a person ‌on site and ⁣the value of that,”‍ O’Brein⁤ told the council. “We could then factor in‌ the daily maintenance work required on the property and come up with a new lease agreement, which I recommend be renewed annually so the council is always informed and ⁤not faced with a large increase all at once.”

The council agreed to have the city assessor inspect the Bevis Hill site and provide a recommendation​ on ​a market-value rent level for ⁤the dwelling.

“We’ll listen to what ‌the assessor’s office ⁢has⁣ to say and then decide on the next‌ steps,” Porterfield said on Wednesday.

Schenectady ⁣Mayor Gary McCarthy ‌stated on ⁤Wednesday that he is not against a potential⁤ rent increase‌ for the Bevis Hill property.

“The decision is up ‍to the ​council,” he said. “They have the authority to ‌proceed with it.”

The city collected $1,500 in revenue from the rental agreement in both 2021 and 2022, with the 2024⁤ city budget projecting $1,500 in revenue from the property, which ‌is significantly less than the $6,000 the city should receive annually in rent payments.

“We have not been receiving the full ⁢revenue from this property⁤ for the past‍ few years,” Porterfield noted during the meeting.

City Councilwoman Doreen Ditiro suggested that the council visit the​ Bevis Hill property before ⁤deciding on a rent increase. However, City Councilman Carl​ Williams and ‌Porterfield responded that⁤ they wouldn’t need a tour before voting on the issue.

Ditoro expressed her concern during the meeting about a potential‍ doubling of​ the rent at the city property.

“I think a‍ 100% increase on the $500 rent is unreasonable,” she said. “If any city resident were to face a 100% rent increase, we would certainly advocate for them.”

Williams responded by pointing out that ‌city residents are struggling to find $1,000 per-month studio ​apartments in Schenectady.

“By involving ⁣the city assessor’s office, we can ensure that ⁤we get a fair and reasonable⁢ rent recommendation ‌based on their expertise,”⁤ he⁤ said during⁣ the meeting.

The 2015‌ lease states that a municipal employee ⁢should live at the municipal water storage reservoir ⁣for the security of the ‍water system operation and to maintain the site.

McCarthy assured⁢ during the Tuesday⁤ council meeting⁢ that the unpaid ‌past rent would be addressed.

The mayor emphasized the importance of the Bevis Hill site as a critical infrastructure for the⁤ city’s homeland⁤ security⁣ that needs‌ to⁤ be ‍maintained.

“The site​ houses a 711‍ megawatt solar facility and is a crucial ⁤part of⁢ the town of Niskayuna’s water system.​ It also hosts other ⁤communications equipment ‌for ⁣public safety, serving not just the⁢ city, but the entire county,” McCarthy said.

Kiara Thomas
Kiara Thomas
I uncover quirky and compelling stories. Always on the lookout for the 'why' behind the 'what'.
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