Schenectady residents voice anger over budget
SCHENECTADY Residents alternated between scolding, lecturing and outright yelling at the City Council on Monday as they voiced their opinions on the budget — and its 4.18 percent tax increase.
“Nobody’s thinking about the seniors!” resident Marva Isaacs shouted. “These people are leaving their houses because they cannot pay these taxes. We need these taxes to go down. Have some consideration!”
That comment stung Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo, who responded later by saying, “I take exception to comments that we are not taking consideration for our elderly.”
She argued that as a one-income household, she has “skin in the game” because she has no one else to help her pay her taxes.
But she asked for constructive ideas, not criticism, for the $78.88 million budget. For the average property owner with a house assessed at $100,000, taxes would go up $56 next year, to a total of $1,391.
Some of the ideas she got were not as helpful as their speakers believed.
Resident Ellen Well suggested welfare reform as a way to cut costs — which would not help the city, as the county and state pay welfare benefits, not the city.
Resident Deborah Rembert also suggested using the police chief’s salary to demolish buildings, rather than hiring a new chief. But the salary would cover only a handful of demolitions.
Other residents simply told the council to write a better budget.
Resident Jason Planck said the council should pay its entire 2013 pension payment, due to the state. The council is planning to pay only a portion of the bill, and pay off the rest over the course of years, with interest.
“This is a bad idea,” he said. “We need to be able to pay our bills, not procrastinate down the road.”
Jason Cuthbert, the former city budget analyst who was fired by Mayor Gary McCarthy over a disagreement on a sales tax contract with the county, said the council had a “kind of dishonest” budget.
“The police overtime budget is going to be magically cut by $1 million next year?” he said. “It’s baloney!”
He said questioned the likeliness of the city’s goal of making $800,000 in property sales.
“It’s ludicrous,” he said.
But few members of the public offered an opinion on one change in the budget: increasing the fee for birth, death and marriage certificates.
The fee would have remained at $10 for those who were willing to wait two weeks; for immediate certificates, the fee would have been $20.
But the council on Monday evening voted 3-3 on the matter, so it did not pass.
Councilman Vince Riggi timed a city clerk as she prepared seven death certificates in 5 minutes and 20 seconds — too little time to justify doubling the fee, he said.
Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said the change would also cost the city more money, because clerks would have to mail the certificates, and Councilman Carl Erikson said residents would likely pay for just one “quick” certificate and order several more for later, forcing clerks to do the same work twice.
Those three voted against it, scuttling the proposal.