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

Monday, February 6

State of the City

I did not cover the State of the City this week, but my colleague Michael Cignoli did and reported that the mayor is eying south South Broadway to potential re-development.

The mayor said the stretch of Route 9 between Adirondack Northway Exit 13 and Lincoln Avenue is “vastly underutilized, underdeveloped.”

That is something I will be following-up on in more detail later in the week, as it seems to be the tip of some unknown iceberg involving the city's comprehensive plan.

At the City Council's agenda meeting Monday morning, the mayor said that the city's comprehensive plan needs to be reevaluated. The word "scrapped" was used, but he said the city would be looking at how to proceed with it.

Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen said he doesn't think the mayor was talking about the overall plan, but rather the latest portion of it added in 2007.

He said a reevaluation of the entire Comprehensive Plan "would make all the sense in the world."

Mathiesen pointed out that the "Green-belt" that surrounds the city and is outlined in the 2001 Comprehensive Plan would be impacted, "which is why I want a Comprehensive Plan Committee to take a look at it."

In addition, the charter requires the city review its plan every five years, which means it is just about due.

So I'll be following up on that this week, but in the mean-time, here is Michele Madigan's response to the mayor's speech Sunday.

"The Mayor’s speech today contained many eloquent words urging cooperation and an end to partisanship. While he may not have completely heeded his own advice (subsequently deriding the “tax and spend mentality of the past”) I believe that we all are public servants with the best interests of the City of Saratoga Springs at heart.
I was encouraged by the tone and content of the Mayor’s remarks on casino gambling in New York. We must first and foremost be concerned with the impact this would have on the horse racing industry and must vigorously defend our quality of life and our city finances from any deleterious impact of casino gambling in our backyard. I was also very pleased to hear the Mayor demand both an increase in our share of the VLT revenues generated by our racino and a guarantee from Albany that we will receive those funds each and every year.
VLT aid is a revenue source that has become critical, albeit still difficult to rely upon, to this City. The Mayor stated – rightly – that “it would be financially irresponsible to rely on those funds to simply balance an annual operating budget”. Unfortunately, this is precisely what the previous Council did in the 2012 Budget that it devised and adopted. Despite uncertainty as to the existence or amount of any VLT revenue provided by Albany for this year, despite past experience with this issue, the previous Council relied on the VLT revenue to balance the 2012 Operating Budget. We must continue our vigilance with our Albany compatriots to retain and increase amounts to offset our significant expenses as host City. We must continue to look for ways to most effectively utilize VLT revenue.
The Mayor’s remarks on the unappropriated unreserved fund balance also require clarification. The Mayor stated that this fund balance increased by $4.2M in 2010. In fact, the fund balance grew by roughly $1.35M from 2009, a substantial difference that we must understand and be aware of in order to accurately plan and budget for the future of the City. Moreover, as Finance has discussed with the Mayor, we are not yet in a position to state that an increase in the fund balance was achieved in 2011. While an increase would be welcome, the City’s 2011 books do not close until the end of February and this number will not be finalized for several weeks. Good planning dictates that we use solid, accurate data to make important statements about the City’s finances.
The current administration has just closed its first month of duty with a truly remarkable set of projects and much progress to show for it. I look forward to the State of the City 2013 and I have confidence that it will resound with the success of this year.
Thank you,
Michele Madigan
Commissioner of Finance"

Mayor Scott Johnson later found some areas he wanted to respond to regarding Madigan's response.
"No one is using the VLT funds to balance the 2012 budget," he said. Johnson pointed out that $1 million of the $1.5 million was placed into a reserve account as a rainy-day fund.
He also took issue with her statement regarding his statement in 2010 that the "fund balance increased by $4.2M in 2010. In fact, the fund balance grew by roughly $1.35M from 2009, a substantial difference," she said.
"The point was that the amount at the end of 2010 would be $4.2 million," Johnson said.
In addition, he said he was a little confused at the beginning for why Madigan had drafted the response in the first place.
"I don't recall anyone ever writing a response to the State of the City address," he said.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good response from the new Commissioner of Finance. She has already shown an excellent grasp of City Finances and a refreshing sense of transparency. For some reason, I believe there's a new sheriff in town in charge of City Finances. Word on the street has it that she's already put the City Council's big tax and spender on notice. Watch for a lot of crying from the DPW??

February 6, 2012 at 5:07 PM 
Blogger Ben lives on said...

Funny thing is Madigan wasn't at the State of The City address

February 6, 2012 at 6:22 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...


No report on the Indoor Rec. Center rent revenue. Wonder why. Johnson budgeted $166,500 for 2011. It will be interesting to discover how much was actually realized. Any bets on how much SHORT it will be?

That's why we have to take his "it will pay for itself" new parking garage with less than a grain of salt.

Now he wants to develop wetlands and floodplains on lower Rt. 9. Should be concentrating on the vacant property on S. Broadway.

Sounds like he really failed to meet the Charter mandated guidelines for "State of City" content. But Johnson has always only adhered to those sections of the Charter that serve his agenda.

February 6, 2012 at 6:27 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The state of the City address was started by then Commissioner of Finance Remigia Foy, in her address she laid out the finicial condition of the City..Past,Present,and Future.Ms.Madigan maybe should have done the same as Ms.Foy and read her address from the Council Table and that way it would be part of the offical record, after one month this council appears to be adrift,shades of val Keehan--to bad for the city.

February 7, 2012 at 5:39 AM 

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