Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

The below blog posts are written by John Kaufmann.
These opinions do not reflect the views of Saratoga TODAY newspaper.

Tuesday, 17 October 2023 10:41

Former Commissioner Lew Benton On Commissioner Sanghvi’s Proposed Budget

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics
[JK: Section 4.43 of the Saratoga Springs city charter states that the Commissioner of Finance "shall prepare a proposed Comprehensive Budget and shall submit it to the Council at the first regularly scheduled meeting at the Council in October each year." Instead of presenting the Council and the public with the actual budget, Finance Commissioner Sanghvi did a PowerPoint presentation heavily laced with political comments. The actual budget was not circulated to the Council until the next day, Wednesday, at 4:13PM. Why she ignored the charter requirement and why she did not have the budget ready to submit is unknown.
Here is former Public Safety Commissioner Lew Benton’s take on her budget.]
City budgets are pretty easy to review. After reading John's post I called up the proposed 2024 budget.
It is quite interesting.
First, many revenue lines seem inflated and unless the budget presentation included an explanation and justification I hope some hard questions will be asked.
For example, Planning Board revenues are budgeted to increase from projected 2023 fees of $165,000 to $250,000; Mortgage Tax revenues, at $1.5 million, suggest more wishful thinking; Insurance Recoveries go from -0- in 2023 to $125,000 in next year's proposed budget. Again, perhaps there are valid reasons to so significantly increase these revenues. If so we need to understand them.
These are but a few suspect over budgeted revenues.
On the expenditure side it is noted that the City Attorney's office has OVERSPENT its outside legal counsel line by a projected $73,300 this year. New positions (a Grant administrator and a Communications Director) have added nearly $115,000 plus fringe benefits. Whether the city really needs a 'grant administrator' in addition to the those staff whose job descriptions already include grant writing and administration is a least worth asking. The reality is that there is a huge investment in planning staff and and an office of parks and open space administer whose duty statements clearly requires grant administration.
These two agencies have always worked in harmony, and quite successfully, to identify, compete for and administer grants-in-aide. Does the city now need a third agency, the mayor's department, to have a full time grant 'coordinator' when there are several titles charged with that responsibility. And is a 'communications director' really justified in this form of government?
All of this against the backdrop of highest sales tax revenue in the city's history and 10% MORE this year than was budgeted. And finally, blaming a 'previous 'administration on the current problem is unacceptable. The 2023 budget was crafted by the incumbent finance commissioner, not her predecessor and she must own it. The proposed 2024 budget appears at first glance to includes unrealistic revenues and major expenditures that may be understated. Back to the drawing boards, please.

Lew Benton
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