Proposed budgets in city, county of Schenectady feature small property tax hikes – Times Union

SCHENECTADY — Mayor Gary McCarthy’s proposed budget for 2021 will feature an increase in trash fees for city homeowners and slash 63 jobs, 47 of which are currently vacant. The remaining cuts will be realized mostly through layoffs and a few retirements.

A few hours after McCarthy’s virtual presentation, the county unveiled its spending plan, which calls for a nearly 2 percent tax increase, the first once since 2017.

Both McCarthy and County Manager Rory Fluman cited almost identical stresses, which includes dwindling casino cash and state and federal aid, all byproducts of the coronavirus pandemic that dried up anticipated revenue.

McCarthy began his budget talk Thursday by reiterating that the city expects to face a $2.2 million loss in state aid, a $1 million drop in tax collection and a $580,000 drop in revenue from Rivers Casino & Resort. For several years revenue from the casino fueled tax decreases in the city, but it was closed for months after the pandemic shutdown in March and has not fully reopened.

The tentative $87.68 million spending plan for next year calls for a 2.82 percent property tax hike and an increase in the trash fee for homeowners and a commercial waste fee.

The mayor said the employees being let go are “across the board” in various departments but not any police or firefighters, a scenario that had been floated a few months back.

The budget factors in using about $1.4 million in fund balance.  The tax rate will rise from $12.77 to $13.13 per thousand of assessed valuation.

McCarthy said the city was in a “dynamic period,” but he remains optimistic Schenectady will eventually receive aid as part of a federal stimulus package that, for now, appears to have little traction in Congress.

“Unfortunately the conditions that we’re faced with today, I’m submitting a balanced budget that complies with the tax cap, but it unfortunately is a tax increase for property owners in the city of Schenectady,” said McCarthy, adding  “we’d hoped for some assistance from the federal government that has not come, I’m still optimistic that something will happen.”

The mayor said 47 of the jobs that are being cut are currently unfilled, and that the 16 positions will be eliminated mostly through layoffs, with a few retirements. All told, the job cuts translate into just over $3 million in savings.

The city charges homeowner fees for trash collection, water and sewer. The trash fee will rise to $274 a year for every unit in a home, an increase of $50. McCarthty noted, however, he is not proposing any changes in “what or the amount of trash we pick up.”

The rate for commercial trash collection will rise to $3.45 per gallon of waste from $2.75 per gallon.

The fiscal plan also includes $7.2 million in capital projects that range from maintenance of police vehicles, to general facility upgrades, to the Smart Cities initiative.

Under McCarthy’s budget, salaries could increase for employees in labor unions, but the pay of management would be frozen.

Afterward, City Council President John Mootooveren said that the council will begin reviewing the budget on October 14, a day after the scheduled public hearing.

Though he conceded that he not yet spoken to his City Council colleagues, Mootooveren said now might be a good time to look at the general or rainy day fund to offset job cuts and help taxpayers. The budget must be adopted by Nov. 1.

The tax levy in County Manager Rory Fluman’s preliminary $327.54 million budget for 2021 is $71.8 million.

Some of the salient numbers related to expected revenue show that sales tax revenue took a $6.5 million hit and $1 million less in casino monies flowed into county coffers.

The county manager formally presents his tentative 2021 fiscal plan to county legislators Monday. A  public hearing is set for Oct 13, with the budget vote scheduled for Oct. 14.

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