Schenectady City Council stands firm against higher assessor pay
SCHENECTADY The Schenectady City Council refused to budge Monday on the mayor’s proposal to pay the next assessor $81,828.
The last assessor was paid $73,000. Mayor Gary McCarthy was able to broker a compromise two weeks ago to pay the next assessor $9,000 more, but the agreement fell apart before the final vote.
The mayor brought the resolution back to Monday’s council committee meeting, only to find that opposition had solidified against him.
McCarthy has only two choices now: appoint someone who will work for $73,000, or persuade his chosen appointee to take the job for just $175 more than he makes in his current city job.
Councilman Carl Erikson said the city should keep looking for an assessor until it can find one “who will work for the correct salary.”
He added that he was willing to wait.
“Sometimes it takes people a while to consider their career changes,” he said.
Councilman Vince Riggi cited the pay scale in the city of Utica, which Schenectady officials often compare to Schenectady when arguing for more state aid.
Utica pays its assessor $52,000.
“We always use Utica as a model. Maybe we should model ourselves after them more,” Riggi said. “I think we have to keep looking. Make someone in the office interim assessor and keep the search going.”
He added that he agreed with Erikson.
“I will not agree to pay more than $73,000,” Riggi said.
Council members did not discuss qualifications. McCarthy wants to hire Bureau of Receipts Supervisor Edward Waterfield, who has never done any assessing-related tasks. It appears that he does not meet the state requirements for the job, but McCarthy said he would be allowed to appoint Waterfield for six months without qualifications. After six months on the job, he said, Waterfield would have the required experience to take a class and become certified as an assessor.
Riggi said the council didn’t debate Waterfield’s qualifications because the mayor has the authority to hire whomever he wants. But it is the council that decides the salary.
Council members Leesa Perazzo and Denise Brucker were not present, but even without them, opposition was significant, Council President Margaret King said. “I think it’s clear we have to go back to the drawing board,” she said.
Capping parking rates
In other business, the council agreed in committee to set a cap on parking rates for the new parking fee kiosks that will be installed downtown next month, so that rates can be changed regularly.
Council members did not discuss the dollar amount of the cap.
The new kiosks will replace parking meters. Drivers will buy a ticket for a set period to place on their dashboard while they are parked.
The goal is to give the mayor authority to change parking rates at the new electronic kiosks without having to wait the six weeks needed to announce and hold a public hearing. Usually, the council holds a public hearing before increasing parking rates.
Prices at the kiosks can be changed — for a $100 fee per kiosk per change — and McCarthy wants to increase the rates during Proctors shows and other high-traffic events.
He also wants to make parking free at certain times.
Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said that holding a public hearing before each change would be “cumbersome.”
Councilman Carl Erikson agreed, suggesting that the council set two caps: one for events, for which the mayor wants the kiosks to charge a flat rate, and one for the normal hourly rate.
The city purchased 20 new kiosks, which will arrive next month. They will cost about $12,000 each in operation fees each year, but drivers will be able to pay with credit cards and take their unused minutes with them from parking space to parking space.
The kiosks will replace about 147 old-style meters downtown. They are intended as a pilot program and council members have been promised that revenue will increase dramatically.
If that happens, the council may replace the rest of the meters in the city. But they’re not cheap: the first 20 cost $130,000.