Thursday, 23 April 2020 12:52

City News: Saratoga Meet Still On, For Now

• The council during its Tuesday meeting unanimously approved by a 4-0 measure a 30-day extension of the city’s State of Emergency declaration, initially declared in March. That State of Emergency now goes through May 12. City Mayor Meg Kelly was absent from Tuesday’s meeting. 

• Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton updated the latest known status of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course, which is slated to begin July 16. 

“My understanding is that NYRA is following the governor’s recommendations and they are preparing to be open and to run if they have the opportunity to do so - meaning the restrictions on mass gatherings and events will have to be lifted,” Dalton said. “If indeed that happens then they will be ready to run in July.” 

Accounts commissioner John Franck added that there also is a possibility that the Saratoga meet may be staged with no fans present. “This is what I heard from various representatives and racing people; I guess the reason being there will still be gambling online, so there would still be revenues coming in to NYRA and the state. We just don’t know yet.” 

Last year, the meet at Saratoga Race Course generated more than $700 million in all-sources handle for the first time in NYRA history at The Spa, despite losing one full racing day to a weather cancellation. The $705.3 million all-source handle bested 2018’s total by more than $46 million. 

• Late Fees for City, County and Delinquent School Taxes: Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said the city had looked into the potential waiver of fees and penalties as they relate to tax bills. “Last week the late notices went out to anyone who was late paying their taxes and that really kicked off quite the firestorm,” Madigan said Tuesday, during a meeting of the City Council via Zoom. “Unfortunately, legal research shows that the city has no authority to waive these fees. The only person who can do so during the State of Emergency is the New York State governor.” The New York Conference of Mayors legal team reports that local governments do not have unilateral authority to extend the interest-free period with respect to the payment of property taxes, she added. 

Regarding other types of fees or late payments that are established via local law - such as water, sewer, garbage - local governments do have the ability to extend or modify late penalties and payments dates by promulgating an emergency order that suspends the relevant local law. 

• Funds: Given anticipated revenue losses due to the COVID-19 emergency, Madigan asked each department to submit by April 29 suggestions on where to potentially cut or trim non-mandatory expenditures. 

All city employees - full-time and part-time – had been paid full wages through April 17. “As of April 18, part-time employees have been furloughed, unless their departments deem them essential and they are actually working,” Madigan said. A temporary hiring freeze went into effect April 10. Until that order is rescinded, new hires may only be made on an emergency basis. 

Options under consideration include payroll reductions, layoffs, securing loans, and using the city’s cash fund balance, the latter of which is already underway, according to Madigan. 

• Land Use Board meetings will resume this week and will be held virtually with board members and applicants and may be viewed via live stream on the city’s website. Consult the city website for dates and times for meetings of the Planning Board, Design Review Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals.

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