Council completes department head budget meetings, sets public hearing

The common council met with Transportation Director Cheryl Scott and Recreation Director Rob Spagnola on Monday to discuss the budgets for their departments. The council also discussed the Golf Course budget.

In the proposed budget, the transportation fund will require a $200,622 transfer from the city’s general fund in order to make up the difference between the department’s expenses and revenues. Scott said that Mayor Michael Villa had asked her if there was a way to run the service such that only half the transfer would be required. Scott said she worked with New York State officials to come up with more efficient routes, while still keeping all the existing services, including runs to various employment locations, shopping, hospitals and medical centers, Fonda, and Albany.

“It’s not a shorter route, it’s a cleaner route with less stops…we don’t want to eliminate any service,” said Scott.

Over half the transportation’s budget of $590,308 is funded by New York State and federal aid totaling $309,500. Bus fares are only expected to account for $45,145. The $200,622 general fund transfer, as well as third party contracts and advertising which total $35,000, make up the difference.

Scott said she found that with the route changes, the general fund transfer could potentially be reduced to only $140,000. However, she said that several public hearings would have to be held before making the changes and predicted that September would be the earliest that the new routes could be implemented.

Controller Matt Agresta said that he was certain the new routes had the potential to lower maintenance and personnel costs, however he said, “My caution would be, number one, you haven’t actually run the system to know if the $140,000 is a good number. Yes we know there would be savings, but exactly how much is tough to determine.”

At the end of the discussion, council members agreed to keep the general fund transfer at $200,622.

Council members kept the Recreation Department budget mostly unchanged. The council requested that the department lower the public pool fees from $2 per person and $8 per family, to a flat $1 per person fee and reduced the expected revenue for that budget line by $1,000, making up the difference by taking funds from contingency.

The golf course budget was left unchanged. The golf course fund is projected to require a $65,772 transfer from the general fund to meet its expenses.

Although the council has made several changes to the mayor’s proposed budget, they have consistently opted to transfer any cuts to contingency lines rather than reduce the overall tax levy. With the council’s changes so far, the city tax rate will increase by 0.85% which is what the mayor’s proposed budget called for. Changes made by the council to the sanitation fund will reduce the increase in associated user fees by $2. Overall, the flat user fees for water, sewer, and sanitation will increase by $10.71 per year under the proposed budget, with the council’s changes.

A public hearing on the budget will be held Thursday, May 5 at 5:00pm at City Hall in the council chambers.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.