Sparks Fly, Budget Passes at Common Council Meeting

 

9th Ward Councilmember Judy Doesschate is Chair of the Finance, Taxation, and Assessment Committee and introduced the budget ordinance Monday /Kyle Pratt

By Kyle Pratt

Executive Editor

The Albany Common Council approved a 2018 budget Monday that increases the city’s property tax and increases Councilmembers’ salaries. The vote was unanimous, but Council-members Frank Commisso Jr., Mark Robinson, and Judd Krasher were not in attendance and did not vote.

Krasher, who recently lost his reelection campign for 11th Ward Common Councilmember,  voted “absolutely not” on amendments to the budget ordinance. He then left before voting on the actual budget began.

“My proudest vote,” Krasher said in a tweet response to a Pine Hills Blog tweet after the meeting, “Raises for high level staff AND council members – appalling.”

In that same tweet he referenced members of the public who spoke about the closing of public access television station Channel Albany.

“The speakers tonight are right,” he wrote, “@AlbanyCityHall and their goons do NOT listen to the people.”

A Delmar resident and supporter of Channel Albamy began shouting at the Council when it was her turn to speak.

Kimberly Krepp took aim at 1st Ward Council-member Dorcey Applyrs , who she criticized for lack of action on reopening the channel. Krepp directly addressed Applyrs, who then stood up and called Krepp “disrespectful.”

Krepp continued to shout over the council-members until an Albany Police officer escorted her out of the council chambers. She was later allowed to return.

The Pine Hills Blog and Times Union reporter Amanda Fries tweeted videos of the altercation. Krasher responded to Fries on twitter.

“The continued outburst wasn’t ok,” he wrote, “But Applyrs was clearly ignoring the speaker. There’s truth to what Krepp was angry about: most members don’t listen.”

Common Council President Carolyn Mclaughlin attempted to reassure the members of the public who spoke.

Council President Carolyn McLaughlin announced Monday that she will resign by Dec. 8th /Kyle Pratt

“Some of us in here are very concerned about this,” she said referring to Channel Albany, “It is being worked on.” She added that she believes the issue surrounding the studio will be resolved in 2018.

Applyrs addressed the public comments later in the meeting.

“We hear your concerns,” she said, “You have not been neglected, and we are doing our best to address your concerns.”

No residents spoke about the budget, or the property tax increase it includes. The increase will total about $14 a year for the average Albany property, assessed at $150,000, Finance, Taxation, and Assessment Committee Chair Judy Doesschate said. The increase, along with better sales tax revenue projections will make up for over $200,000 gap between the city’s projected revenue for 2017, and its actual revenue.

“The Budget Office was very conservative in regards to sales tax revenue,” Doesschate said.

The Budget Office projected a $600,000 reduction in sales tax revenue, after the first two quarters of the year saw lower than expected revenue. The Albany County Comptroller Office also released a report projecting lower revenue, said Michael Wheeler, Budget Director for the City of Albany.

The third quarter of 2017, however, brought the revenue up to 73 percent of what was projected, with the Christmas-shopping-filled fourth quarter still to go, Doesschate said. The County Comptroller’s Office now projects a 2 percent increase in revenue over last year. The revenue of this year affects that 2018 budget, she said.

The sales tax reduction is now expected to be around $500,000, leaving the city with an extra $100,000 to budget, Doesschate said.

When creating the budget, the Finance Committee elected to follow a decades-old law which stipulates that whenever non-union city employees get a raise, elected officials, including the Common Council, get a raise. Originally, the proposal was not included in the 2018 budget, Doesschate said, but the consensus of the Council was to include it, so she did. The 2 percent raise will increase Council salaries by $406 each for 2018. The raise is part of a separate proposal that has not yet been voted on.

1st Ward Councilmember Dorcey Applyrs address concerns regard public access television station Channel Albany /Kyle Pratt

The increase comes entirely from the Common Council’s own budget, rather than being paid for directly through a tax increase, Doesschate said. In fact, the city’s projected 2018 budget is a decrease from 2017’s budget, which was a decrease from 2016’s budget, she said.

This is the first consecutive expenditure decrease in the city in decades, according to a letter from Mayor Kathy Sheehan that is attached to the 2018 budget proposal, and available on the city’s website.

“My 2017 budget included a 2% decrease in expenditures from 2016; the largest, and only the third annual expenditure decrease in more than 15 years,” Sheehan wrote in the letter, “My 2018 budget builds upon my commitment to fiscal responsibility by implementing consecutive annual budget decreases for the first time in more than 60 years.”

Back in the Council Chambers, McLaughlin made an emotional announcement. She will be resigning as of Dec. 8, making the Dec. 4 Council meeting her last. McLaughlin launched an unsuccessful bid for mayor earlier this year, meaning she could not rerun for Council President.

6th Ward Council-member Richard Conti thanked McLaughlin for her dedicated service Monday.

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