Troy could be getting a financial boost. Word came this week that the Rensselaer County city would receive funding after several steps to share services and lower costs were approved by the state. Meanwhile, inaction during the state legislative session threatens tax revenues.
Coming off a contentious budget process last year that ended with a spending plan carrying a 14 percent property tax increase, the City of Troy is continuing to look for ways to save money.
This week Troy Mayor Patrick Madden, a Democrat, announced the New York State Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments approved a series of recommendations and financial aid.
“We’ve got some thoughts here and some of these represent first steps that could lead to something larger in the future,” said Madden.
The recommendations were made after communication between the city and county to find ways to share services and save money.
Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino, a Republican and Madden’s sister, said recommendations made to the Fincanial Restructuring Board included the areas of engineering and technology.
“The City of Troy last year lost their engineer when he left to go elsewhere. We have a county engineer and so basically the shared services would provide that we would provide oversight to the engineering aides in the city and they would in turn continue the services that they provide under the engineering license of our county engineer,” said Jimino.
Other shared services include financial management, payroll, and civil service.
Previously, following a tough audit, the city council submitted a corrective action plan to the New York State Comptroller. That plan also included finding ways to share services.
Other recommendations issued by the FRB include ways to find savings in healthcare and meet operational expenses, an assessment of the city’s vehicle fleet, and money to implement energy efficiency upgrades. That all adds up to about $2.7 million.
In addition, there’s been a recommendation of about $1.2 million to help the city manage its long-term debt to keep payment amounts stable and avoid a need for a bigger tax bump next year.
Madden added that the large tax increase for 2017, part of Madden’s first budget, was intended to fix long-standing issues and he does not expect a similar situation in the next budget.
“I’d be reticent to predict, but the big bump last year corrected a variety of ills, historical shortcomings in our budget. So we’re not looking at anything of that magnitude again,” said Madden.
Republican City Council President Carmella Mantello hopes the boost will help Troy’s next budget stay under the state tax cap.
“These monies will help toward the effort of coming under that tax cap, because that’s what the City of Troy needs to do for the taxpayers of the City of Troy,” said Mantello.
Recently, the mayor also announced a $2.1 million surplus. Madden says a portion of that funding would be put aside — think of it like making a deposit into the city’s savings account.
But one fiscal threat looming over the city and county is the failure of state legislators to come together on a plan to approve an additional penny for the county on local sales tax.
If something is not done before the sales tax extender expires this fall, County Executive Jimino says it could cost the county about $20 million. That will also affect communities because the county shares sales tax revenues with municipalities.
“Just by way of example, the county itself will lose $11 million, the City of Troy about $5 million,” said Jimino.
Jimino, who is not seeking another term, said if the county has to make up the difference, it could lead to a county property tax rate increase of about 20 percent.