Council passes budget changes including decrease to library funding

At Tuesday’s special meeting, the Common Council officially voted on a list of 23 changes to the proposed budget previously submitted by Mayor Michael Villa. The list included items such as the reinstatement of the deputy police chief and additional police dispatcher position, which were missing at last week’s meeting, and which caused the council to vote 3-2 to table the resolution. The council also made several last minute changes which were added by amendment, including a reduction in the funding to the Amsterdam Free Library.

On May 17, Greater Amsterdam School District voters approved a measure by 802 to 262 in favor of an additional school tax that would bring in approximately $200,000 annually for the library. In past years, the city has contributed $60,000 annually to support the library operations. The council decided to reduce the level contributed to the library to $10,000, moving the remaining funds from that line into the contingency line.

Both Alderman Jim Martuscello and Alderman Chad Majewski said they had received calls from constituents who supported the additional GASD tax, but believed that funding from the city should be cut.

“I received a lot of phone calls in favor [of continuing city funding]. But the louder ones I received were the ones not in favor…the ones that were against, because they already gave once, were louder,” said Martuscello.

“I had the same phone calls that you did,” said Majewski. “But I had a couple of loud ones as well that were in favor for us cutting it. I keep hearing that they don’t want to be taxed twice, they don’t want to have the money coming out twice.”

Library Director John Naple attended the meeting and provided copies of the library’s 2016 operating budget. The document, which had not yet been updated to reflect the new tax revenue, showed that $174,867 of the total $322,467 budget was funded by the library’s endowment.

Mayor Michael Villa asked what the current level of the library’s endowment was. Naple didn’t give an exact number, but said it was in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars.

Naple also said the library currently employs three full time employees and approximately seven part time employees.

“Somebody said that our library director makes $100,000. She makes $40,000,” said Naple.

Naple also pointed out that the operating budget does not include large maintenance projects such as the recent new roof or entrance-way work. Naple pointed out that the funds donated to improve the door and entrance could only have been used for those projects, not for operating expenses.

“I expect that you’re going to cut. And we’re just asking to do what you can. The money that you do give us, its not going to be wasted. We need it, and we appreciate whatever you can do,” said Naple.

Naple added in regards to the recent proposition, “The vote was quite substantial for the library.”

“It was, but I think it’s a fine line…where people are willing to support,” said Villa. “But there’s that line where – how much do you want us to give?”

Villa also said later, “I think we all were proponents of getting that proposition passed.”

Villa said he hoped to see the library do more fund raising and suggested a golf tournament as one possibility.

“We’ve been looking into that, but it’s not as easy as it sounds,” said Naple. He added that he had talked with the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course Pro Joe Merendo about the idea.

Naple suggested the $50,000 that was taken out of the library line be used to re-pave the library and post office parking lot.

“That’s something that would really help the library if the parking lot was paved,” said Naple.

Besides the library funding, the council also made several other adjustments. Previously, the council had agreed to reduce the plumbing inspector’s position from full time to part time. Members agreed to keep the position as full time, but the reduce the hours from 40 to 30. They also reduced the increases in the mayor’s proposed budget to the city clerk and employee relations director, giving each a 1.5% increase. Additionally, they reduced the city clerk’s longevity line from $4500 to $2000.

The final budget resolution was passed by a vote of 4-0. Alderman Ed Russo was not present.

Now that the council’s budget changes have been officially voted on, the mayor may issue “objections” or line-item vetoes to any change made by the council. After the meeting, Villa declined to say whether he would issue any vetoes but said that if he did, he would most likely make a statement next week.

Tim Becker

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