A first look at the 2020-2021 proposed budget

Mayor Michael Cinquanti submitted his proposed 2020-2021 budget and statement to the city clerk’s office yesterday. The budget calls for a 4.68% property tax increase, a 1.1% increase in sewer fees, a 3.86% increase in sanitation fees, and no increase in water fees. Total user fees are proposed to rise from $996.89 per unit to $1010.65 per unit, which is an overall 1.38% increase.

In his budget statement, Cinquanti underlined the challenges of preparing the budget given the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainties in regards to revenue from state and federal aid. However, he stressed that the proposed budget preserves all essential services while addressing the cost of financing to restructure the city’s fund balance deficit. In his statement, Cinquanti wrote:

As difficult and stressful as it has been, I want to begin this message by emphasizing that the experience of battling the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the toughness, compassion and versatility of both our citizens and our city’s workforce.

This is certainly not the budget I planned to present when I took office in January of 2020. I’m also sorry to say that it was not developed using the budget-making process or format I hoped to have in place with the city’s controller by now. Both expectations were adversely impacted in early March when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Cinquanti offered the following key points in regards to the budget:

It keeps all city departments functioning at safe and effective levels and supports the key 20-21 operational priorities established by each department

It finances the first-year costs for restructuring of the city’s $7.7 million dollar deficit

It advances progress of the DRI projects and strengthens our economic development capabilities

It advances critical capital projects that are either fully funded or mandated

It provides for the beginning of a new neighborhood rejuvenation program in our city

It provides for major street improvements even if CHIPS money is delayed or reduced by New York State this year

While total expenses across all funds are projected to rise, most of the increase is attributable to the increase in debt service.

Total budgeted expenses:
2019-2020: $33,115,268

Debt service (interest + principal)
2019-2020: ‭2,041,324‬
2020-2021: ‭4,875,840‬

Total budgeted revenues remain relatively flat compared to 2019-2020.

Total budgeted revenues:
2019-2020: 26,666,905
2020-2021: 26,605,152

However, Cinquanti wrote that estimated revenues are contingent on receiving some sort of federal aid in the upcoming fiscal year, which he estimated at $1.2 million. If the aid does not come in, he said that the city could compensate with revenue generated from the sale of foreclosed properties, which was not included in revenue estimates. Additionally, he said the budget aims to generate a $250,000 surplus in the general fund which could also help. Additional spending controls could also be implemented if revenues fall short.

“We would institute strict spending controls on all but absolutely essential city services for the balance of the city’s fiscal year,” wrote Cinquanti.

In conclusion, he thanked the council and controller for their help and wrote,” I’d like to thank the people of this great city for their patience and understanding with both their city government and their fellow citizens during these past four months. I want them to know that this budget represents my best effort to keep them safe, to spend each of their precious tax dollars as productively as possible, and to build a better Amsterdam.”

All decisions regarding the budget have been accelerated due to the late release of the budget this year. The following timeline was adopted by the common council at the last regular meeting:

  • June 22 – Public hearing on budget
  • June 25 – Deadline for council to pass their version of the budget
  • June 29 – Deadline for mayor to issue objections (line-item vetoes)
  • June 30 – Deadline for council to override objections with a 4/5 majority vote

Tim Becker

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