Schenectady City Council approves budget, reduces tax increase

Posted at: 10/30/2012 11:28 PM
Updated at: 10/30/2012 11:29 PM
By: Dan Bazile

SCHENECTADY -- Schenectady City Council members poured over the numbers inside City Hall, making sure not to leave any stone unturned as they searched for ways to cut deeper into the city budget.

"We worked as much as we could with the administration, with the mayor's office to try and get these numbers down," said councilwoman Denise Brucker.

The number they were pushing down was a 4.18 percent property tax increase proposed by mayor Gary McCarthy. The mayor already had plenty of cuts that included jobs and city services to make up a multi-million dollar budget gap. Council members slashed even more and approved the mayor's plan with a list of amendments in debt services, salaries and city jobs that brought down the proposed tax rate increase to 1.7 percent.

"Very difficult to make those choices about not giving any salary raises," said Brucker. "There are many people who work for the city of Schenectady who do an amazing job and probably did deserve raises."

"We'll look at it and see what the operational impact will be tomorrow," McCarthy said.

Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett is anticipating the impact.  Two of his assistant police chiefs have been eliminated.

"We haven't been down to two assistant chiefs in at least five years," Bennett told Newschannel 13. "It's a little hard to predict what this impact is going to be and how deep it's going to be."

Bennett said all departments in the city had to make cuts and they're not happy with them. He's not sure what they can live without. There were even talks about getting rid of Bennett's position. Council members said they looked at all possible options and Bennett's job was never in jeopardy.

"The council has indicated they want me to continue do the job I'm doing. I'm very pleased to have their support," Bennett said.

Councilman Vince Riggi, the only non-Democrat present at the budget meeting voted no. He indicated he was pushing to reduce the property tax increase to less than one percent.