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Council wraps up budget sessions, schedules May 9 public hearing

The Amsterdam Common Council came to a consensus on adjustments to the municipal golf course budget at a committee meeting on Tuesday. The golf course budget was the last department reviewed after two weeks of budget meetings where council members talked with representatives of the police, fire, recreation, water, sewer, sanitation, and transportation departments. Darren Graf, golf course maintenance supervisor, attended the meeting to answer questions.

Council members agreed to decrease the line for seasonal cashiers at the course by $26,100 to reflect the elimination of three pro shop workers’ salaries. A new contract with Golf Pro Joe Morendo increases his compensation with the expectation that he will hire cashiers of his own to staff the pro shop. At the time the proposed budget was released by Mayor Michael Villa, the contract had not yet been finalized. The line for the golf pro already included a $15,000 increase under Villa’s proposed budget. The council increased that line by another $5,000 to reflect the finalized contract.

Council members upheld a $15,000 reduction to the unemployment insurance line in the mayor’s proposed budget, with the expectation that elimination of the three cashier’s positions would reduce that expense.

Even with the cuts made Tuesday, the golf course fund will still require an approximately $53,000 transfer* from the general fund to meet expenses.

At the end of the meeting, Controller Matt Agresta reviewed all the changes agreed on unofficially by the council. Changes so far will result in a slightly lower increase in both the tax rate and user fees than under Villa’s proposed budget. With the council’s changes, the new tax rate would be approximately $15.8426 per $1,000 assessed value, a 2.0% increase from last year. Total water, sewer, and sanitation user fees would increase by $33.91 per unit per year, a 3.9% increase from last year.

The council has scheduled a public hearing on the budget at 6:00pm on May 9 at City Hall. A special meeting is planned after the hearing to pass an official resolution on the changes. After that, the mayor may submit line-item vetoes to the changes which would require a two-thirds majority vote on the council to override.

A summary of the unofficial changes agreed on by the council so far:

  • Added $4,500 to help fund the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation
  • Added $2,500 to help fund the Horace J. Inman Senior Center
  • Reduced police department personal line by .5% (approximately $14,000)
  • Reduced police department un-allocated insurance by $5,000
  • Reduced police department vacation buyout line by $20,000
  • Reduced deputy chief salary line by $10,000 in anticipation of March 2018 retirement
  • Reduced police department weapons, ammo, targets line by $4,000
  • Added $36,361 to restore police department clerk
  • Reduced sanitation department landfill expense by $15,000
  • Reduced sanitation clean up week line by $5,000
  • Reduced city clerk salary by $2,000 (removing proposed raise)
  • Added 2% to two city hall maintenance worker salaries in anticipation of raises ($1,337)
  • Added $25,000 to sewer department contingency line by appropriating sewer fund balance
  • Added $900 to salary line for recreation program specialist in anticipation of 2% raise
  • Reduced seasonal golf course cashier’s salary line by $26,100
  • Added $5,000 to golf pro compensation line

* Previously, the article stated a figure of $60,168 for the required general fund transfer. However, according to Controller Matt Agresta, the elimination of the three salaries also reduced the amount for NY State retirement and Medicare expenses, lowering the required transfer to $53,000.

About Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of AnthemWebsites.com LLC which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

3 Responses to Council wraps up budget sessions, schedules May 9 public hearing

  1. Deceptive because the water FEE is actually being used as a TAX to augment the fund balance. The Council can claim to be under the tax cap when in fact they are not. We currently have one of the highest water rates in upstate NY because of this. The flat rate water fee discriminates against households of one or two people who pay the same water use fee as a family of 5 or 10. Please install residential water meters so we pay for what we actually use and stop the deceptive practice of using the water fee to balance the budget.

  2. diane hatzenbuhler says:

    I completely agree, Jerry Skrocki, everybody should be metered. It would not only address the issue you brought up but the abuse of running water for no reason.

    I proposed it in the past with the installation being spread out over a period of time on the water bills. It would be done by a contractor and not the homeowner. Meters could be read electronically same as the National Grid ones. This is the fair and equitable way to do it.

  3. Tim Becker says:

    I agree that a meter system would be a fairer way to bill for water usage. And I say that having a family of 6 🙂 However I think we need to understand all the implications. A meter system may lower costs for some (and raise costs for others), but it won’t help the overall budget, and maybe that’s why the idea hasn’t gotten much traction.

    The fact that water fee revenues offset our taxes is a good thing. While many people may not be aware of how it works, I don’t think it’s fair to label it as “deceptive”.

    The per-unit rates are based on average usage. So if we accept the average as accurate, a metered system will probably bring in close to the same revenue as a non-metered system. Or, as Diane mentioned, people may use less water given they would have an incentive to conserve, and then revenue may actually decrease. Then we’d have to increase taxes to compensate. I’m all for conservation, but unfortunately it creates a financial problem.

    The other thing to remember is that our commercial water rate is locked at 1.5 times our residential water rate. Therefore a small increase in the residential water rate has the potential to bring in a larger percentage of revenue from commercial users. Obviously we have to make sure we keep the commercial rate competitive less we stifle development. But that’s the reason why a small increase in the water rate may actually keep our overall taxes and fees lower. It’s a tough equation to solve though.