Saratoga Springs finance commissioner says budget requests too steep

Thursday, September 5, 2013
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— Initial city department spending requests for 2014 need to be scaled back, according to Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan.

During Tuesday night’s council meeting, she said the requests add up to about $42.7 million in general fund spending, which would be almost $2.8 million more than in the current budget. Madigan initially had asked for departments to keep spending increases below 1 percent, but that didn’t happen.

“We have no revenue stream that can increase at this rate,” she said Tuesday.

The state property tax cap is decreasing from 2 percent to 1.66 percent, but since Saratoga Springs didn’t raise taxes previously, its actual cap will be a little higher. Madigan didn’t have a final figure calculated for Tuesday’s meeting.

“I would not be comfortable overriding the tax cap,” she said Thursday. “That is something that is off the table for me.”

The department budget requests have not been released to the public yet, but Madigan said the Public Works and Public Safety departments, which take up the largest portion of the city’s budget, came in significantly above this year’s spending level.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Madigan noted that funds in the budget will need to be shifted toward payroll, retirement, health care and citywide insurance costs.

On Thursday, she added that city contracts, which almost all have to be renegotiated in the near future, will cost the city more money. Two contracts settled this year have already increased mandated costs for next year’s budget, she said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council also continued the approval process for 29 capital projects, including purchasing new equipment, upgrading recreation facilities, two major infrastructure projects and the creation of a controversial East Side fire and medical facility. Madigan, the lone opposition vote, said the list of projects might eventually need to be scaled back during the budget process.

She described the capital projects as budgetary requests similar to general budget requests, saying she might need to remove certain projects depending on the city’s finances. A comprehensive budget is due Oct. 1.

“If I need to make changes to it, I will,” Madigan said of the capital projects list.

On the positive side, she highlighted an increase in the state’s payment to the city for hosting the Saratoga Casino and Raceway, strong mortgage tax collection and a good revenue stream from ambulance services.

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