Albany's proposed budget 'lean', could bring decrease in taxes for residents

·3 min read

Jun. 18—ALBANY — The city of Albany is looking at an increase of $6 million in its budget for the coming fiscal year, but the bulk of that increase is found in three categories: pay raises, soaring fuel costs and a development for the homeless, which comes with a caveat.

The good news for city residents is that no tax increase will be imposed.

The total proposed budget for all city operations is $298 million for the budget year beginning July 1, up from $291.9 million for the current budget year that ends June 30.

"I think one of the big ones, what this proposal has in it, is a 3% COLA (cost of living adjustment), that is about $2.1 million," the city's CFO, Derrick Brown, said. "That's probably one of the major drivers."

Over the previous two years, city administration has focused on salaries for first responders, granting police a pay raise and looking at identified salary inequities in the Albany Fire Department. This year the proposed budget includes an across-the-board increase of 3%.

"We know inflation is out there, so we wanted to do something with our employees," Brown said. "We know fuel costs are up."

Next year's budget contains funding for 1,169 full-time positions. As of April 30, 875 positions were filled.

Next on the list of forces impacting the budget is the cost of fuel. The city is budgeting 25% more for fuel for the 2022-2023 budget year, an increase of $1.8 million to $2.4 million.

The city has some 1,400 pieces of equipment, from cars to lawn mowers to transit buses, that burn gasoline, diesel and compressed natural gas.

"Fuel costs are up," Brown said. "Those are among the bigger drivers. Some of it is out of our control, if you will."

While there has been no mandate by departments to cut spending by a certain percentage, Brown and City Manager Steven Carter have sat down with department leaders to look at spending categories and, where deemed necessary, recommended taking a look to see if there are things that can be reduced, the CFO said.

"I think it (budget) is as lean as we can get it," he said. "I can say with pretty much certainty that we will not have a tax increase. If anything we will be looking to roll back. We have rolled them back for several years. That's what I would anticipate at this point."

The third large item in the proposed budget that increased over last year is $2.6 million for the Department of Community Development.

However, $1.9 million of that amount is basically a wash as that is the amount the city received in a federal grant through the American Rescue Plan Act. That money is earmarked for addressing homelessness.

That grant calls for providing non-congregant housing opportunities.

Among the individual budgets included in the overall spending package is utilities, which account for $157.8 million in spending. Of that, $23 million in spending is part of the 10-year stormwater/sewage separation project.

The proposed general fund budget, which funds the city's day-to-day operations, is $66.89 million. That budget includes police, fire, planning, engineering, procurement and finance.