City of Amsterdam Mayor Michael Villa submitted his proposed 2016-2017 budget yesterday. The budget calls for a 0.85% increase in taxes and 1.45% overall increase in user fees. Water and sanitation fees would be raised by 3.54% and 3.85% respectively, sewer fees would be reduced by 4.9%.
In a statement released along with the budget, Villa wrote, “This budget maintains the quality of services our community needs and has come to expect. Everything from public safety to infrastructure to blight, we have tried to address all areas in this our first 100 days. I believe this budget is crafted to be fair while maintaining fiscal responsibility. The property tax levy is under the state mandated cap coming in at less than 1% or .13 cents per thousand of assessed value.”
Although the budget document indicates a $505,000 appropriation of the general fund balance, according to Controller Matt Agresta, the amount is due to the flow of New York State Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funds and will not change the overall fund balance significantly between this fiscal year and next. Agresta explained that the city borrowed approximately $500,000 last year through a bond anticipation notice (BAN) in order to fund road repair work. The cost of the work has since been reimbursed by NY State and the city will pay off the loan in the next fiscal year.
Villa addressed specific cuts to the deputy police chief and one of two dispatcher positions.
“Police salaries have risen $249,000.00 for the fiscal year 2016-2017, necessitating the proposed cut to the Deputy Chief position as well as an additional dispatcher. These cuts are necessary to implement a long range plan that will increase public safety services while being financially sound,” wrote Villa.
Police Chief Greg Culick commented on the cuts yesterday and wrote, “I don’t agree with cutting any existing positions from the police budget. While I understand the city’s financial distress, I urge the mayor to first look at non-essential services for cuts. I will be working diligently with the council to restore funding to the deleted police position”
According to Culick, the position of the second dispatcher has not been filled yet, and therefore would not impact the department. However, Culick said the deputy chief has many essential responsibilities, and dispersing those tasks among the other staff members would be “chaotic.”
Culick added, “I am no fan of eliminating a position that was earned through a long, faithful and spotless career, extraordinary devotion to the city and its police department, and further, earned through an intense promotional exam.”
According to the budget document, the current deputy chief’s salary is $92,539 with additional benefits which cost $20,076. The dispatcher’s position is listed at $34,170 with an additional benefits which cost $6,643.
Villa also addressed a $200,000 decrease in expected sales tax revenue, attributing the reduction to falling gasoline prices.
In his statement, Villa concluded, “This administration will continue to look for areas of consolidation and savings. I believe we have put together a budget that not only is within the tax cap, but provides all the essential services to our residents. I would like to personally thank our controller for all his help and the dedication he has shown in assisting me with crafting my first budget. I submit this 2016/2017 proposed budget to the Common Council with the hope that they remain sensitive to the needs of our city.”
The next step in the process is for the common council to conduct a review of the proposed budget, make changes and then pass their own version of the budget before June 1. The mayor can then submit the equivalent of line-item vetoes or “objections” to any of the council’s changes. The changes can be overridden by a two-thirds majority vote by the council. A public hearing for the budget is also required to be held before May 15.