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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Wednesday, July 21

Ivins v. Scirocco on the budget; 10% cut or 10% tax increase?

Technical note: My apologies to any readers whose comments may have disappeared last week, the site has been a little wonky lately in the comment approval area. Just let me know if what you're writing isn't coming through,

Budget season is almost upon us, and if last night's discussion is any indication, City Council meetings are going to get a lot more interesting down the stretch.

Below is video excerpted from the exchange between Finance Com. Ken Ivins Jr. and Public Works Com. Anthony "Skip" Scirocco after Ivins announced he would be requesting a 10 percent cut in departmental operating budgets for 2011 (based on the figures originally enacted in last years comprehensive budget NOT a 10 percent cut from the amount resulting from the cuts made in May).

Ivins said what I imagine most people still in the room (about 10, many folks left after the public comment portion) expected him to say about next year's budget.

Ivins has been consistent all year, saying that to remain viable next year the city will need one of the most stringent budgets on record, leaving room for the possibility of more layoffs and a double digit property tax increase. He said that his reporting of income has been as timely as possible, for which I will take him at his word.

Scirocco was outraged at the idea of a 10 percent cut, saying that the department was stretched as thin as possible. He has touted the department's ability to keep up with the staff reductions. I'm not sure why he needs to know the other department's budgets, or why that information isn't readily available to him. I thought it was available on the City Hall computers, which is what I believe Ivins tells him.

Franck's comments are interesting. If saying you can't make cuts is essentially endorsing raising taxes, is voting to hire a new staffer for an unfilled $67,000 per year position the same as saying you can't make cuts?

Ivins was the only council member who voted against hiring a new Principal Planner. If Franck and Scirocco had joined him, $67,000 might still be available for Rec. Center staffing or debris pick up. You can complain about the guy who writes the budget, but that doesn't mean much without some substantive discussion when a possible cost savings come to the table.

Is this an example of how a city manager might take some of the politics out of the legislative process? What do you think?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly the DPW, as all departments, can easily cut costs 10%, maybe more.

With the proposed charter change, if the bubget were not cut at least 10% I would expect the city manager be fired and all of the council members resign or be voted out.

July 23, 2010 at 8:11 AM 
Blogger NOW. HERE. THIS. said...


As one of the "ten people still in the room," I commend you on a fine job of editing Tuesday night's episode of "School for the Hopelessly Confused." There was much MUCH more time used as one Council member advocated at length on behalf of "HIS" department.

As a piece of information for the coming Charter debate, could you please inform your readers of HOW MANY MINUTES of "discussion" passed between the moment Commissioner Scirocco interrupted Commissioner Ivins and the moment when Commissioner Scirocco ceased his spirited and earnest support of "his" Department. My watch battery died during the entire live and unedited... segment.

I thank Commissioners Franck, Ivins, Wirth, and Mayor Johnson for NOT subjecting the Public to a numbing infomercial on the importance of "their" department or the "impossibility" that "their" department could survive any future budget cut.

Facing the specter of another tax increase, I also thank those four Commissioners for not blithely dismissing the burden we taxpayers carry. Not one of the four shared Commissioner Scirocco's breezy assertion that after last year's 7.8% tax increase-- "I didn't hear anybody grumblin' or complainin' about that."

-Kyle York
One of The Ten

July 23, 2010 at 1:40 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets let the public decide that when all these offices are up for re-election this yr.

July 24, 2010 at 5:32 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

City managers don't take the politics out of anything,they just deliver the political message from the town council and the mayor,here's one for you....Bell Ca.population 38,000.salary of their city manager is 850,000,Saratoga springs population 27,000 Pat Kane saratoga citizen brain trust is trying to convince a very few who will listen to him that a city manager for saratoga springs a world class destination will only cost the taxpayers around $110.000,,,maybe you should try and get the politics and misleading statements out his fair.Try it

July 24, 2010 at 6:19 AM 
Anonymous tom lewis said...

This is an example of why our Commissioner form of govt has drawbacks.

If the DPW Commissioner was "just" a councilman, he might look at a bigger picture. If the Finance Commissioner were "just" a councilman, he's likely to also have a different view.

Finance Commissioners have been defeated at polls because of unacceptable tax increases. Accounts Commissioners have been defeated because of Assessments
changes, etc.

Having been a party leader in Saratoga Springs, throughout the entire 90's, I know first hand that each Commissioner cares first & foremost about their own Department, NOT the "City as a whole."

It's hard enough governing when almost every politician (of both political parties) care ONLY about getting re-elected. But then this system tacks on an additional layer.

July 24, 2010 at 10:43 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHAT! A city in California with a population of 38,000 people is paying a city manager $850,000(and he just got arrested for DWI) and the city of saratoga Springs with a population of 28,000 people will only pay $110,000 and this is according to Patrick Kane the leader to change our form of gov't,according to my calculations per capita we'd have to pay a city manager well over $500,000,we'er is the savings to the taxpayers Mr. Kane(What's the real motive behind this rapid fire movement to change this GOV"T,surely it has nothing to do with saving money I think that is clear....lets' hear THE REAL REASON!

July 25, 2010 at 7:11 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As political leader Lewis knows from his years of experience it is the caliber of the office holder that determines the performance at the council table and the effectiveness of administration. Unfortunately, both local political parties have failed to recruit good candidates over the past few years for some of the offices. It is duds like Scirocco, who make the system look bad. We have a financial crisis which seems to be beyond the comprehension of Skippy who fails to admit he is incapable of running DPW much less understanding the budgetary process. His dismal performance is not the fault of the system , it is his fault.

July 25, 2010 at 8:16 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This example of single minded thinking is inherent to many Saratogians.

Saratoga Springs is physically a large city with a population equally diverse to the causes it supports. There are several neighborhood organizations, historical groups, recreation committees, political parties, lake associations plus individuals who routinely represent themselves before the city council.

With any form of government, many times the people elected tend to support only their pet projects, rather than represent all the people. The way to overcome this is to have more representation from defined districts.

Unfortunately the proposed charter change misses out on the opportunity for more representation, and accountability from those elected from defined districts.

July 25, 2010 at 8:29 AM 
Anonymous tom lewis said...

In response to Anonymous (I don't know how many different "anonymous's" there are).

Yes, I do agree with you that it IS the caliber of an office holder that determines their performance at the council table and the effectiveness of administration, but that's in spite of the Commissioner Form of Govt.

A strong leader can (and has) overcome the short comings of the system.

My opinion is that the probabilities to have effective, long term decisions made will increase if you take the "My Department" mentality out.

In addition, it is more likely to attract a larger pool of possible candidates if they don't have to "run a department," but just act as legislators.

Let's have a vote Nov. 2

p.s. my prediction though, is it will fail again, even though I will vote yes.

July 25, 2010 at 10:30 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 8:16am AMEN.Tom,when you were chairman of the you thought the system served YOUR interest pretty good or was that in spite of you.

July 25, 2010 at 6:57 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't hear that Commis Scirocco wanted a 10% increase in taxes. He turned in 1 millon dollars back in april 2010 because he was conservative. He is down 39 or 40 people. People havr to decide if they want the services that they are getting. One day he had to watch the office, because there was no one to do it. Every Commissioner has a Sec. but Scirocco. He, himself is putting in about 60 hours a week. Is Iven, Frank, Johnson, or Worth?

July 25, 2010 at 7:44 PM 
Blogger NOW. HERE. THIS. said...

Mr. Lewis-

While I voted AGAINST the last attempted Charter change, it was due to the "Strong Mayor" proposal, a movement which I believed was choreographed to put Incompetents of the Highest Order into virtually un-checked power.

As for the CURRENT proposal now before us, I am as yet undecided.

But I have found your first-hand experience to be substantiated by hard-and-fast facts. I have forced myself to use the City website to WATCH past meetings. And I count the HOURS wasted as I have watched as "each Commissioner cares first & foremost about their own Department, NOT the "City as a whole."

And today the "Old Guard" spearheading the opposition tell us we gave the PERFECT recourse-- "THROW 'BAD' LEADERS OUT EVERY TWO YEARS."

I am growing more impressed by the prospect of voting for FIVE (...or 7...or 9) citizens who CARE about SARATOGA SPRINGS. And when the spirited voice of a civic-minded SARATOGIAN speaks... a voice like Ms. Foy or Al or Tom Mctygue or Ron Kim... the City Manager is going to LISTEN and ACT.

Granted, it's only an early opinion. I have many more Council videos to watch. And YES-- I suppose I have WAY too much Spare Time... I learned last Tuesday as "one of the ten" citizens who actually stayed to WATCH our government inaction.

-Kyle York
Can we please clean the Algae off Park Ponds?

July 25, 2010 at 10:08 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:44pm the million skippy turned in was on paper not real money,60hrs aweek is still less than Mctygue put in, and he got results.

July 26, 2010 at 1:37 PM 
Anonymous tom lewis said...

Anon -

As chairman of the Rep. party I tried to only fight battles I had a possibility of winning. Both Ed Valentine and J Michael told me they would never support Charter Change.

I did my best to work within the system as it was. Won a few, lost a few.

And, I'm sure lots of good things happened "in spite of me." I never thought I was that important.

July 26, 2010 at 3:23 PM 
Anonymous tom lewis said...

Kyle, please call me tom. I know I'm old, but the Mr. Lewis thing doesn't make it.

I also voted no on the last run. It was pretty obvious that it was just a power grab.

July 26, 2010 at 3:40 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kyle, When the DEC gives the ok for the licence, then the ponds will be clean. Dpw doesn't have the man power to do it right now.

July 28, 2010 at 7:47 AM 
Blogger NOW. HERE. THIS. said...

Anon 7:47-

The ponds in the park of NOTHING to do with DEC and EVERYTHING to do with SKIP. I know first-hand because I've done it... first-hand, by hand.

As temporary no-benefits DPW "Day Worker," I was one of many employees who'd grab the well-worn DPW waders out from under the Casino, then pick up the pool skimmer by the utility shack at the kitchen entrance, and then work from shore or wade into the pond. You skim the algae, dump the skimmer load into a lined garbage pail... and repeat as necessary.

No license, no chemicals, no great problem for an employee in reasonable health. All it takes is ONE worker committed to an assignment... and one DPW Commissioner who leaves his office to SEE flower beds, walk Congress Park, inspect street repair sites, and supervise myriad other expenditures of Taxpayer money.

Of course, the Commissioner does NOT have to attend the opening of the City rec center. Four chose to celebrate with the kids and the citizens last night. One Commissioner chose to Skip it.

Maybe he put on the waders and put in a few hours in the ponds.

But he certainly did NOT have to put in a call to DEC.

-Kyle York
Will Skim Ponds for Free,
For The People.

July 28, 2010 at 12:00 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A 10% cut in the original comprehensive budget passed last November would still amount to close to $3million. That's totally looney tunes and would destroy any departments ability to provide essential services to the city. I'm not sure where Ken or Skippy was coming from and even where a cut might be justified. There was no clear explanation and the longer it went on the worse it got. Of course Ken may have some updated information from cutbacks in state aid or reduction in aid so we'll have to see how it plays out. Looking at the first five months numbers. Health Care plan if accepted would save $1m but we're in court on that one. Sales tax increase should be requested to at least a .5 increasee which would give the city $1.3m in additional revenue. Gas prices still high. Ciagarette taxes up as well. Sales tax increase over budgeted number should be around a minimum of $500k.As a side note Skippy dod not gibv back $1m to the city. That's fantasy land!!! Elmira,N.Y. has a City Manager at $160k on a $30m budget and also has a Deputy as well along with two administrative people. That just about takes up the savings from eliminating five deputies. Possibly we can get together with the County and centralize dispatchers. That would save us $700k. Could have happened last year but Ron was too aggressive with his demands with Sheriff Bowen. Consolidation in Payroll to a central system could save 6 people one full day per week which could be spent doing something productive in other areas. 2000 hours a year at minimum of $15 an hour is big bucks. I'll stay annonymous here and if anyone guesses who it is coffee and bagels are on me.

July 28, 2010 at 2:51 PM 
Blogger NOW. HERE. THIS. said...

"I'll stay annonymous here and if anyone guesses who it is coffee and bagels are on me."

This community needs your insight MORE than they need to know any meaningless 'guesses' of WHO you are. But ALAS, you are advised, NOT ordered, to drop the double "N" at the start of what might have been "anonymous."

We, as neighbors, do NOT need free coffee or free bagels.

What we NEED is Freedom of Speech. From thoughtful citizens like yourself. You've got an astounding grasp of data and dollars. And you may be RIGHT or you may be WRONG.

But our COMMUNITY would be the better for knowing WHO you are. And with or without that personal information, you have "raised the bar" for intelligent, informed, and respectful debate. ask for a guess at your ID and I'll jump--

Are you "JOHN HANCOCK????"

-Kyle York
Two 4-letter words, One name.

August 1, 2010 at 11:43 PM 
Anonymous Not a Kyle York fan said...

Come on Al, it wasn't that hard to figure out... When do I get my coffee and bagels?

August 5, 2010 at 3:52 PM 

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