Curbing Fees in Schenectady

It’s budget time for many localities.  Ahh, that wonderful time of year when New Yorkers discover just how much their property taxes will decrease in the upcoming year.  It’s really like an early Christmas present.

Actually, it’s more like the post-Christmas credit card bill that arrives in January.  The budget news in many New York cities is not good.  The media throws around terms like “bleak” and “financial tsunami.” Schenectady, NY is no exception.  Mayor Brian Stratton provided his budget proposal on Monday night.  It’s a doozy:

  • 4% tax increase
  • Job cuts:  68 layoffs according to a WNYT report and a CBS 6 story, 89 jobs eliminated according to a Times Union story.  I’m not entirely sure why the numbers don’t agree, but it may have something to do with layoffs vs. positions not being filled.
  • Cuts to overtime and services

Guess Schenectady didn’t get the memo that the recession is over.

But here’s the best part:  Stratton is proposing a “curb fee” to help reduce the tax increase from what would be 8.8%.  It just makes me feel all warm and tingly every time a politician finds innovative ways to create and expand fees.  After all, they’re not taxes!

The Times Union describes the proposed fee as follows:

…property owners would be assessed a fee based on their property’s linear footage along city streets. The fee is meant to cover services such as snowplowing, street lighting and pavement maintenance.

I bet those Schenectady potholes are shaking in their asphalt boots. Maybe I’ll be able to drive through Schenectady next year without vital bolts rattling loose in my car.  And maybe we’ll be able to see the curbs this winter instead of snow banks that narrow Schenectady’s streets into a slushy, slippery game of chicken.

But I’m not a Schenectady resident, so I shouldn’t whine about it, right? Never stopped me before.  Besides, the mayor wants to apply the curb fee to non-profits.   Like hospitals.  Any guesses on where the nearest emergency room is relative to my home?

Oh yeah, there’s also this little comment from the TU article:

Stratton also proposed to hold back $1.5 million owed the county in unpaid property taxes, saying he can legally do it if the City Council amends the city’s charter. County officials, however, have said they’ll fight the city on the issue.

Did I mention that I live in Schenectady County?  Nah, Stratton’s proposal won’t affect me in the least.  It’s not like my property taxes could be impacted down the road by an inept government of a city I don’t live in.

Still, I almost feel bad for the mayor.  Almost.  At least until I read the following from the TU article:

While an executive secretary position has been cut in the mayor’s office, Stratton has added $30,000 to his discretionary fund. When asked about the item, Stratton said he has to travel as part of his position on the U.S. Conference of Mayors water advisory council, but that he gets reimbursed for the expenses. However, he said he would have to investigate that line item further.

At least Stratton will be able to drive to the airport when he travels in the winter.

Talk about your curb appeal!

Sometimes, I just have to roll out the sarcasm and vent a little.

Leave a comment


  1. Incredible. I love the descretionary fund. $30K increase. I hope someone picks up on this and sheds a spotlight at this. Glad you brought it to our attention. Stratton is quite generous to himself. Remember when he gave himself a nice raise a few years back? Wade, is it true that the Schenectady Council members receive full benefits and pay for their 4 hours a week? If that is correct, wouldn’t logic prevail to say that the cuts should commence there?

    • Alicia… not sure that I’ve got a spotlight, but I’ll try to at least find a bright flashlight.

      I do remember the arguments going back and forth over Stratton’s raise a few years ago. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes as big a topic.

      I’m not sure about the pay and benefits for the common council members. Definitely worth looking into. Just look at our State Assembly and Senate. They get big bucks and benefits for a part-time job. It wouldn’t surprise me if the same is true for Schenectady’s common council.

  2. Sharkles

     /  October 5, 2010

    My hometown tried to initiate a curb tax a few years ago. Most people there are pretty apathetic when it comes to local government, but that issue got them fired up enough that the tax didn’t end up happening.

    Like Alicia, I too love the extra $30,000 in discretionary funds. That’s more than a lot of people who live in Schenectady and surrounding areas make in a year. How appalling! It’s crazy some of the things these people get away with.

    • It’s certainly more than I’m making as a stay-at-home dad! (But my benefits are much better… time with the kiddos.)

  3. springtimesoul

     /  October 5, 2010

    When we moved to South Jersey from Chicago, I wondered why so many of the lots were shaped like a noodle. Then I read somewhere that the first property taxes were based on street footage; thus, everybody opted for long, narrow yards. So this is a really, really old idea–but it was instead of not in addidtion to our current property tax set-up. As an owner of a corner lot, I am opposed to the concept, unless I can charge a toll for driving by my house.

  4. Now the toll idea has me really cracking up. Wade you really got us all going on this post! Great work today.

    • Nothing like some taxation and a little sarcasm to drive a conversation.

      Might have to give that toll idea some thought, too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

  • Welcome!

    I believe that we desperately need to hear the stories of Ordinary Citizens who make a difference in our lives, our communities and our world.

    Why not be Ordinary?

    Why not make a difference?

    Why not be Ordinary AND make a difference?

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 605 other followers

  • Calendar

    October 2010
    M T W T F S S
    « Sep   Nov »
  • Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: