Amsterdam council raises sewer rate in budget proposal - The Recorder

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Amsterdam council raises sewer rate in budget proposal The Recorder

AmsterdamNews.net

New positions also added; proposed property tax increase unchanged

By JASON SUBIK
Staff Writer
After two budget meetings, the Common Council has adjusted Mayor Michael Cinquanti’s 2020-21 budget to include several new positions, increased the sewer rate, but kept the proposed property tax rate increase at 4.6 percent.
Cinquanti’s budget proposal spends $35.8 million, with a tax rate increase of 82 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value, taking the rate from $17.37 to $18.19 per thousand dollars of assessed property value.
During budget hearings on Monday and Tuesday, the council added an assistant position for Amanda Bearcroft, Amsterdam’s community and economic development director. The assistant job will pay $50,000 a year and will be eligible for someone with a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree with relevant experience.
The council added an information technology specialist for city hall. The position will pay $50,000, but officials said there are some savings expected because the city will not have to hire IT contractors.
The council also gave new Police Chief John “JJ” Thomas the option of hiring an additional police lieutenant to help with managerial duties when he was absent.
Increased costs from the new positions would have bumped the city’s tax rate increase an additional 10 cents, bringing it to $18.29, but several additional savings were found to offset the new jobs.
The city received an unexpected cost savings last week when a 1.89 percent interest rate bid came in for the city’s $7.6 million deficit finance municipal bond borrowing. Cinquanti had budgeted a 6 percent interest rate cost for the, and the lower interest rate cut the city’s costs by $251,000 for the 2020-21 budget. The lower interest rate will only be applied for the first of an expected 10-year process of repaying the deficit finance borrowing, which is being used to clear off the city’s accumulated budget deficit built up over approximately the last 10 years.
City Controller Matt Agresta at Tuesday night’s budget meeting said the cheaper than expected interest rate will allow the city to cut it’s annual subsidy of it’s golf course by $31,000 from Cinquanti’s budget, which was set to provide a $145,259 subsidy to fill the annual deficit at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course.
Total expenses at the golf course for the 2020-21 budget are $803,259. That doesn’t count any costs for restoring the golf course clubhouse.
Cinquanti told the council Tuesday night that the city’s insurance carrier — New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal — has agreed to pay up to $1.452 million for the cost of restoring the clubhouse, which had been damaged in a flood.
Cinquanti said the city is moving forward with the process of restoring the clubhouse, which had been a part of ambitious plans to create a restaurant/bar to enhance revenues at the location and help pay off it’s approximately $1 million total accumulated deficit to the city’s general fund.
“We have a lot of bidders,” Cinquanti told the council, regarding the rebuilding job.
Third Ward Alderwoman Irene Collins asked if the insurance payout also covers the cost of all of the furniture and equipment inside the clubhouse.
Cinquanti said he believes the insurance payout is “all encompassing” and will cover most things, but Agresta said a separate insurance payout figure has been provided by NYMIR of $80,000 for some of the clubhouse’s equipment, including its food grills.

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Additional savings were also found from spending to the city’s fire department of about $80,000, some of it from salaries of employees that won’t start working for the city until later in the budget cycle than originally anticipated.
Cinquanti’s budget had proposed increasing the city’s annual sewer fee by $3.34 to $306.61 and the annual sanitation fee by $10.42, to $280.15, but it left flat the city’s annual water rate at $423.89.
Agresta said most of the savings from the lower-than-expected interest rate for the deficit finance municipal bond can be applied to the $1.6 million in water fund money Cinquanti’s budget had been using as a revenue source for the city’s general expenses. This is expected to help build back the city’s depleted water fund.
Agresta said the city’s 2019-20 budget underestimated the amount of the cost of sewer sludge transportation by more than $215,000. He said the city was forced to use contingency money to cover the difference from the $430,000 budgeted in the current year budget, with sewer sludge removal costs set to be more than $650,000 for the year.
Deputy Mayor James Martuscello, who represents the 5th Ward, said the council should increase the mayor’s proposed annual sewer fee of $306.61 an additional $4.23, taking it to an annual fee of $310.84, in order to ensure the city has enough money to pay for the increased sewer sludge removal costs.
The council agreed.
“Basically, the cost of flushing the toilet just went up $7,” Martuscello quipped.
In a discussion about the $10.42 increase to the annual sanitation fee cost, Cinquanti said it is largely due to increases is the city’s tipping fee costs with Montgomery County, which had been brought on by the collapse of Montgomery County’s intermunicipal garbage disposal agreement with Fulton County, which led the county to enter into a deal to dispose of garbage at the Seneca Meadows landfill.
Second Ward Alderman David Gomula asked if the city was looking at any closer options for garbage disposal, and Cinquanti said the city is looking at other options, but provided no further details. Cinquanti also said the city is trying to support the organization “Grow Amsterdam” which offers composting options to city residents, as a means of reducing the tonnage of the city’s garbage.
Second Ward Alderman David Gomula, participating in his first budget process, questioned spending on several items over the two budget hearings including the $32,000 budgeted for the city’s part-time personnel director Kim Brumley.
“That’s too much for part-time work,” David Gomula said.
Martuscello asked Gomula how much he thought the city should pay Brumley. Gomula proposed $30,000 instead, but the rest of the council voted against it.
Collins said Brumley’s expertise would cost far more than $32,000 to obtain from anyone other than her.
These are the key dates remaining in the city’s budget process:
• June 29, at no later than noon, Cinquanti must produce a statement with any objections he has to the council’s changes and his reasons for those objections.
• June 30 is when the council will consider the city’s operating budget one last time, and 4/5 of the council can vote to overturn any of the mayor’s budget objections
The council resolution also includes a final clause that indicates if the mayor does not have his objections in on time, the budget will be considered adopted.


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