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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, September 4

Politial capital

Well things were certainly interesting at the City Council meeting last night — and not just because of the protestors and people who spoke out on alleged police misconduct in the city.

The discussion over the Capital Program was lengthy and seemingly unproductive.

At first, Democrat Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan walked through most of the 29 items on the list and asked for some clarification of the project, the funding source or asked if they were necessary at all (that tended to be asked of Republican Public Works Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco).

All of that was to be expected as the Council was poised to adopt the program, but the conversation soon devolved into an argument over what passing the Capital Program actually means.

"This is a bigger, more philosophical discussion here. It's not just about these projects," Madigan said at one point during the discussion. That conversation, in substance, is outlined in this article, though I may update it today with some comment from the Commissioners.

It was, in fact, the same conversation they had last budget cycle. 

At the same time, Scirocco accused Madigan of playing politics when she said she is "not coming out with a tax rate that overrides the tax cap. I will make this tax rate low and flat."

"Commissioner Madigan, that's a wonderful political speech," Scirocco said.

"That's right it is and you're going to be responsible for a higher tax rate" if Scirocco got his way, she shot back.

Madigan wasn't the only one to go after Scirocco, either.

While she and Scirocco were going through his capital requests (which Madigan hinted may be cut to lower the tax rate and Scirocco insisted were "necessary to public health and safety") his opponent for the job, Bill McTygue, was sitting in the peanut gallery.

"WRONG!" he kept — well, not shouting, but grumbling loud enough for everyone to hear.

Scirocco, for his part, started playing into the "conversation," saying "Bog meadow is an alternative to the Saratoga Lake Project, which would have cost $20 million. This one is $1 million, right?" asking City Engineer Tim Wales who was there to explain the capital projects.

(MyTygue: "WRONG!")

Scirocco: "These infrastructure projects are necessary. They were neglected for years and years and years," saying they should have been taken care of by the previous, McTygue administration (which Bill McTygue was integral in).

(McTygue: "WRONG!")

Madigan, Scirocco and eventually Mayor Scott Johnson all said they would rather not have the comments.

"I just can't take the lies," McTygue told the mayor, who said he would have him removed if he couldn't keep quiet.

"Are you ordering me out of the room?" he asked.

"I will if you keep commenting," the mayor said.

"Go ahead," McTygue responded.

The mayor said he should leave, but McTygue didn't move, but also didn't talk for the rest of the meeting (that I saw).

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Blogger Eyeinthesky said...

Well things were certainly interesting at the City Council meeting last night — and not just because of the protestors and people who spoke out on police misconduct in the city.

Police misconduct or alleged police misconduct? Do you know for a fact that misconduct took place in all or any of these incidents?

September 4, 2013 at 6:20 PM 
Blogger Lucian said...

You're right. I added it.

September 4, 2013 at 9:55 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Council would have done well to really examine past Capital Projects that have been bonded and built on false claims that they would produce new or additional revenue adequate to serve their bonded debt or operating costs.

The two recent ones that come to mind are the newest parking garage and the Indoor Rec.

Before the previous City Council acted to move the Woodlawn Parking Deck into the Capital Budget it should have scrutinized the then proposed funding scheme advanced by the mayor. We will recall that we were told that the new deck generate enough additional annual sales tax revenue to serve the additional debt the mayor proposed to build it.

Of course that seemed like a stretch and it was. Subsequently the mayor noted that he wanted to apply some of the City’s fund balance to the project. No one, apparently, had the gumption to remind the mayor that he had previously told us that the garage would ‘pay for itself.’

Let’s look at the numbers.

Each of the deck’s 180 spaces cost approximately $28,000. The mayor had assured us that the project would be “free,” that its $180,000 yearly debt would be paid by the “additional” sales tax he claimed it will generate.

Please keep in mind that $180,000 in sales tax requires $12 million in additional taxable sales. Are we all confident that the deck will, in fact, result in a $12 million net increase in taxable sales each and every year until the deck’s debt is retired? No, and apparently the mayor isn’t either or why would he now want to tap into the fund balance.

Did the then Council really feel confident that each and every one of the 180 spaces would generate $67,000 in taxable sales a year? Or did it just go along with the mayor’s claim. Had a fiscal impact statement been prepared that gives any credence to the claim? Of course not.

That means that the mayor was asking us to believe that each and every one of the garages 180 spaces would generate $183 in taxable sales each and every day of the year.

Of course that was all silly but hey, who was looking? Not the then Council, not the press.

And we are reminded that in spite of repeated assurances that the Indoor Recreation Facility’s O & M would be met by user fees, it continues to operate in substantial deficit and must be subsidized by the property tax.

We can no longer build a budget on inflated and non-existent revenues, wishful thinking and promises of a “free lunch (parking).”

This Council must challenge claims on new and enhanced revenues to finance projects. Johnson has been wrong and so his and Sutton's errors are paid by the property tax.

September 6, 2013 at 6:30 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comm. Madigan needs to look very closely at the proposed 2014 Revenue Budget.

Has Sutton again over estimated Rec. Center revenues as she and Johnson have done for the last 3 years? If so, the Rec. operating budget will be a drain on other needs.

Check closely to see what they are doing with the City Attorney budget. In recent years, while Scala was city attorney, they had to transfer $10s of thousands into his budget to hire outside council because he could not or would not do the work himself.

September 7, 2013 at 10:54 AM 

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