Mohawk Valley Compass

Analysis of the comptroller’s water fund warning

Four straight years of no increases in water rates, while at the same time depending on seven-digit transfers from the water fund each year to reduce city taxes isn’t a sustainable financial plan for the City of Amsterdam. The possibility that the water fund balance could be depleted was proven and well-publicized at least a year ago. Yet in Mayor Michael Cinquanti’s proposed budget for 2021-2022, we see virtually no water rate increase (.25%) and the exact same $1.3 million appropriation of fund balance to transfer to the general fund as we had last year.
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First look at the proposed 2021-2022 budget

City of Amsterdam Mayor Michael Cinquanti released his proposed budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year yesterday. The budget calls for a 0.18% increase in the property tax rate, along with an overall 5.64% increase in user fees. However, city officials said yesterday they are prepared to make additional changes based on recommendations from the New York State Comptroller’s office.
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Fund balance projected to top $14.5 million under proposed GASD budget

Even with no increase in the total tax levy in the proposed 2021-2022 budget, even with approximately $1 million in unexpected COVID-19 related expenses in 2020-2021, even with socking away nearly $1 million into other reserve funds, the unrestricted fund balance for the Greater Amsterdam School district’s 2021-2022 fiscal year is projected to rise from $13.8 million to $14.5 million, according to the New York State Property Tax Report Card filed by the district on April 25. The amount is nearly five times as large as the limit set by New York State law.
Picture for Fund balance projected to top $14.5 million under proposed GASD budget

Why we need to watch local government’s executive session procedures

Because the general public and media are prohibited from executive sessions, New York State’s open meeting law contains very specific rules as to how an executive session should be convened during a public meeting. The purpose of these rules is to make sure that anyone attending the meeting can hear and understand the reason for the session at the time it is convened. The rules also serve to keep officials accountable for keeping their discussion limited to the reason stated, as well as defining which subjects are allowable to discuss in private.

GASD board won’t see completed budget until same day as vote

Each year, the city council and county legislature take weeks to pour over the multi-million dollar budgets they are responsible for approving. It’s one of the most important jobs they are elected to do. They often have to deal with uncertain revenue projections from a number of sources, some of which have to be changed last minute. While the school district budget has it’s own unique intricacies, I thought for sure that members of the Greater Amsterdam School District Board of Education would have at least some reasonable amount of time to study, research, and question the proposed district budget before approving it for final vote by the public.

Montgomery County breaks ground on new DPW, MCBDC facility

A groundbreaking ceremony was held today for a new facility that will house Montgomery County’s department of public works and offices for the business development center. The facility will be located at the Glen Canal View Business Park off of Route 5S in the Town of Glen. The two departments currently reside within a flood zone on Park Street within the Village of Fultonville. Moving the facilities out of the flood zone was cited by county officials at the event as the primary reason for the new construction.

Chamber President highlights benefits of $13 million solar project

From: Mark Kilmer, President/CEO Fulton-Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce. New York State has established ambitious clean energy targets and meeting these goals requires the construction of new sources of power like wind and solar. Communities that take advantage of this new economic development activity will benefit from job creation, new municipal revenue, and support for farms.

The APD reform plan lacks details justifying its own reforms

I count myself as one of the majority of residents who is proud of our City of Amsterdam Police Department and believes that overall, they are doing a great job. While protests and riots sparked by the death of George Floyd and other incidents of Black people dying while in police custody erupted in our major cities last year, things in Amsterdam remained peaceful. I believe the large, peaceful demonstration held in front of the city’s public safety building last summer was a great example of the comparatively good relations our officers have with the community.

Clarity needed on rules for public participation

If you thought you had a constitutional right to speak at public meetings held by your local government, unfortunately you’d be wrong. While New York State law requires public hearings when local laws or ordinances are being considered, and most city, county, and school district governments have traditionally allowed public comments at regular meetings, the rules governing those comment sessions are almost entirely up to the governing body to determine.

Alderman states opposition to clubhouse sale

From: City of Amsterdam 4th Ward Alderman Stephen Gomula. I sent a version of this letter to Mayor [Michael] Cinquanti and the other members of the Common Council last week and I would like the public to know my feelings on this issue as well prior to the upcoming vote on Tuesday February 16.

GASD survey finds strong support for fifth grade band program

Responses from fourth and fifth graders and their parents to surveys sent out by the Greater Amsterdam School District music department indicate strong support for re-instating the fifth grade band instrument program which was effectively cut from the current school year’s budget by not hiring a new teacher to replace the retiring high school band director.

Understanding the comptroller’s advice on the water fund

The New York State Comptroller’s office recently released a review of the City of Amsterdam’s 2020-2021 budget. The report detailed many areas of the budget process that need to be improved. You can view the report online here. The report’s advice on the city’s water fund is one section in particular which I believe could be mis-interpreted by both city officials and residents. Fortunately, the comptroller’s office was able to clarify the advice in the report, shedding some additional light on how the water fund’s finances should be looked at and documented in the future.