The city needs the public's help in convincing state lawmakers to provide Albany with permanent funding to help close the $12.5 million 2017 budget gap.
Following last week's news that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had not provided Albany with the funding in his 30-day amendments, Mayor Kathy Sheehan and state lawmakers Thursday urged area residents and businesses to unite in the city's fight for what local officials call Capital City Funding, recurring state aid to offset the large number of tax-exempt properties in Albany.
Cuomo didn't include any funding in his amendments or his initial budget. This leaves the fate of Albany's $12.5 million up to the state Legislature, which must approve a budget by April 1.
The city's efforts will include weekly events and letter writing campaigns to "ensure that the rest of the state Legislature understands the importance of this," Sheehan said.
"I think we have been successful in demonstrating to the state that this gap is real, and this funding isn't extra funding for the city of Albany," she said. "This is an opportunity for us to really come together as a community and as a region for Albany's fair share."
A tale of 4 cities
Tax levy: $58 million
Aid and Incentives for Municipalities: $12.6 million
AIM per capita: $128.84
Full value per capita: $44,387*
Tax levy: $69 million
Aid and Incentives for Municipalities: $71.7 million
AIM per capita: $617.22
Full value per capita: $25,382*
Tax levy: $55 million
Aid and Incentives for Municipalities: $88 million
AIM per capita: $419.04
Full value per capita: $28,127*
Tax levy: $30 million
Aid and Incentives for Municipalities: $11.2 million
AIM per capita: $169.44
Full value per capita: $28,103*
Sources: City of Albany; Schenectady 2017 budget; and Seethroughny.net
Albany has participated in the state's Financial Restructuring Board and went through further scrutiny that was to culminate into a state-funded report showing what a city budget would look like without additional state aid, but it still hasn't been released.
City budget officials continue to work with departments on a Plan B should it not receive the $12.5 million, which include cuts of up to 7 percent in some departments. They're also discussing shared services options with Albany County, like consolidating 911 dispatch.
Sheehan sought $12.5 million in Capital City Funding in 2016, but the state instead provided that amount in a "spin-up," which is an advance payment on a 33-year plan for payment in lieu of taxes for the Empire State Plaza's absence from the city's property tax rolls. Spin-ups came to the city's aid under Sheehan's predecessor, Jerry Jennings.
More than 63 percent of the city's assessed value is tax exempt, leaving a "really disproportionate burden" of the cost services like police, fire and road repair and improvements to residents and businesses, Sheehan said.
While the city's full value per capita is more than $44,000 — higher than Rochester and Buffalo — the figure doesn't take into account the influx of people during the day, city officials said.
"The city's daytime population more than doubles every day and we have to provide for operations to service that population," said Brian Shea, Sheehan's chief of staff. "Our tax levy has allowed us to do that to a degree that far exceeds any other large city in upstate New York, but the burden we place on our property owners has reached a breaking point."
Tax-exempt buildings provide jobs in the city, but many of the employees who work in them live outside of the city, which means services they require must be paid for with property taxes on the city's taxable businesses and 97,856 residents.
"If they all lived in the city of Albany, it would not be enjoying a poverty rate of over 23 percent," said Democratic Assemblyman John McDonald of Cohoes. "Bottom line is there are a lot of people working here, but they're (living) in the suburbs, and it is critical that we support the capital city."
City officials have also decried the disproportionate funding from the Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, which has remained stagnant since 2009. Albany officials say their $12.6 million is $128.84 per capita, while in Rochester its $419.04 per capita and $617.22 in Buffalo.
Democratic Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy of Albany said the financial challenges won't be fixed through AIM.
"The Capital Region has the single best economy in upstate New York, so it is hard to convince members that you have to look at the core of the region," she said. "We need to make sure that the core remains strong, so that the region remains strong."
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