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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

City Approves $39.7 Million Budget for 2013

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Though split 3-2 along party lines, the Saratoga Springs City Council voted to approve the $39.7 million budget for 2013 during their October 5 meeting. The meeting was held a day earlier than normal to prevent the regularly scheduled meeting from interfering with coverage of the local and national elections.

 

The budget increases roughly $2.5 million from the 2012 budget, with the property tax levy only decreasing between 0.01 percent to 0.07 percent depending on whether you live in the inside or outside district of the city, respectively. This was Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan’s first budget following her election last November.

Madigan’s co-Democrats on the council, Accounts Commissioner John Franck and Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen, both commended Madigan for the budget while the council’s two sitting members of the Republican Party, Mayor Scott Johnson and Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, voted against it.

The budget numbers reveal five new positions in the Department of Public Safety, including two new firefighters, two new police officers and one new dispatcher. Public Safety’s 2013 budget increased by $1.3 million dollars, which is a 6.4 percent jump from the 2012 budget. The increase is largely due to the $800,000 increase in health insurance costs and retirement benefits. The rest of the increase can be attributed to the expiration of the SAFER grant, which paid for seven firefighters over the last two years.

Commissioner Scirocco was less than pleased with the budget. Though his department will receive almost $870,000 between the Capital Budget and the general fund, the total is about $400,000 less than his requested amount.

He stated that this was Madigan’s “re-election budget” and added that it doesn’t help him provide necessary services. In the months leading up to the budget announcement, Scirocco had been requesting more money to make up for a perceived labor shortage. The total the Department of Public Works will receive is roughly $240,000 more than the entire county recently requested for their 2013 budget.

Mayor Johnson’s concern over the budget was the sudden agenda item change from a discussion to a discussion and vote, suggesting that it sets a bad precedent in the city to give such short notice for future budgets.

Johnson once again questioned Madigan’s authority to change items in the 2013 Capital Budget after it was approved in September. He also voiced his concern over the Public Safety budget, calling it “unsustainable.”

Franck countered that the city providing ambulance service was a “home run” and that without it the city would have likely faced a tax increase this year.

Madigan added that it was a shame the sitting Republican council members were essentially voting against a property tax decrease, which the Mayor objected to. The vote would then fall along party lines.

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