The City of Troy, New York, "Where Henry Hudson Turned Around."

Monday, November 30, 2015


With a cut here, a slice there, Mayor Rosamilia has stated that the tax hike could be as low as 4.9% That only works, of course, if there's a meeting to vote on a tax cap override. Such a meeting has been in doubt but it appears it will go forward.

The 4.9% possibility also throws the issue back to the City Council. Council President Wiltshire previously stated that he could stomach a 5% increase but not a 8% increase. The extra 3% hurt his tummy. We remain skeptical that anything will happen. The 'No's' simply refuse to cooperate.

That said, we have thought long and hard about this situation during Godfather commercial breaks. The conclusion arrived at? While making for semi-interesting drama, this is not the end of the world.

Mayor Rosamilia has his detractors like all mayors. He certainly has his flaws. In particular, his administrative and public relations skills are about as developed as your average mollusk. The budget issues are not one of those flaws. No more than any other mayor.

Lets look at some of the excuses given for tax hikes and/or threatened layoffs.

There's this excuse:

"Based on the current level of spending and a relatively flat increase in revenues, we
have projected costs through .... Major category expenses included an assumption of
salaries at an increase of 3% for each year .... Salary increases at this rate
(3%) are in place for the CSEA and UFA bargaining groups per their contracts through
.... The other large group (PBA) is currently undergoing bargaining
negotiations. However, based on prior negotiations, we feel safe in assuming a three percent
(3%) salary increase for that group as well. Furthermore, given the current trends, we have
assumed an additional 30% of total salary costs to account for employee benefits, and an
increase in other operating categories of 3.9%."

Translation: Expenses go up.

It is ultimately this administrations goal to close these budget gaps through the
measures described above. However, if these means are not sufficient, an alternative plan will
be presented which includes a potential tax increase and/or layoff. In the worst-case scenario,
the budget gap in ... ($1,202,474) would be closed by implementing a 7% property tax
increase equating to approximately $1,050,000. In addition, the City would implement an
employee reduction of at least 5 positions through attrition and/or layoff. This reduction would
equate to approximately $208,000 provided the average salary of each is $32,000 and fringe
benefits of 30% are anticipated.

Translation: We may need more money.

Or this excuse:

"We've done just about everything we can do to put together a budget to continue the quality of life of the residents. By reducing some jobs from the budget, we're able to keep the tax increase to what I believe is a minimum level."

Or this excuse:

" costs are projected to increase 7.3 percent for 2011, having already jumped 13.8 percent in 2009 and 6.5 percent in 2010. Altogether, there has been a $1.5 million increase in healthcare costs from 2009 to 2011. Despite employees making health care concessions during the last round of negotiations, it does not necessarily mean the cost to the city is reduced."

Or this excuse:

"There is also a "staggeringly high" 41 percent increase in pension contributions, an amount that may change after the city receives the final amount from the State Comptroller's Office on Oct. 15. Of that 41 percent, the city was able to amortize $1.4 million. Because of the amortization, the pension increase will be around 13 percent, but Mazzariello stressed that the increase will have to be paid eventually. "All we're doing is prolonging the inevitable, and postponing those payments to the future," he said."

Then there is the use of reserve funds to keep tax increases low or non-existent.

These, of course, our quotes from the prior administration when dealing with their own budget woes.

There was the threatened 19% tax increase for 2010.

The administration explained:

"Obviously, this is a very serious situation," wrote Crawley. The city's current situation stands in stark contrast to statements made by Tutunjian to The Record last fall that there was no financial crisis in the city because the total amount of money in city reserve accounts then neared $22 million.
"When I say we're in the best shape we've been in for 20 years, it's true," said Tutunjian at that time.

When asked what had changed since then, Tutunjian said that the city received a bill from the state earlier this month informing his administration that its pension costs were going up by $2 million in 2010.

Ultimately, the proposed budget called for a 4.25% tax increase, later reduced to 2.54% by the City Council.

There was the year when spending went up but there was no corresponding tax increase.

The 4.9% tax increase isn't even the largest in the past decade. If you recall, Tutunjian's first budget raised taxes 6.5%. In the first two years he raised taxes 8%.

That is not to criticize Tutunjian. The 'excuses' his administration made for budget woes remains the same today. It remains the same for many northeastern cities. What some people here and there are the internet seem incapable of understanding is that costs increase over time. In particular, healthcare costs and, of course, contractually mandated raises, COLA's etc. Technology needs updating, roads need to be maintained.... If revenues remain flat or even grow at slower rate than prices, guess what?

Cuts can always be made. There is always something that can go. Sometimes increasing revenue costs money. For instance, we could sell our terrific water to some neighboring municipalities that have a water problem. Most are across the river and we simply do not have the infrastructure to deliver the product. Do we want to invest in that infrastructure?

Do cuts in services help attract investors? Would people be willing to go to private garbage collection?

The point is, this annual budget dance (some years are easier than others) does not represent a systemic problem as much as it represents a new reality. Cuts, like tax hikes, only prolong the inevitable.  Cuts are a one-shot. Tax hikes are a one-shot. Eventually, you can't do either.

Got to love Troy politics. It's never dull.

Saturday, November 28, 2015



First up, we would like to welcome Mark Robarge to the scrum. Mark is a new editor/reporter at The Record. We hope he follows in the footsteps of the areas good political reporters: Chet Hardin, Shawn Charniga and Tim O'Brien. This article is a promising start. A bit more meat-on-the-bone than we've seen in the past (or at least since Cinema Art closed).

According to the article (and as we reported on November 21, 2015), the new revenue enhancement proposal would mean a roughly 5% tax increase. This proposal would still be in excess of the real property tax cap and legislation will be needed for the override. According to the article:

"Rosamilia offered the compromise this week in a letter to current council members in which he calls for trimming an additional $463,000 in spending and adding another $250,000 in revenue to his initial, $68.6 million proposal. The plan stays true to Rosamilia’s pledge to avoid layoffs or cuts in essential services, but calls for eliminating four vacant positions in the city assessor’s office, central garage and recreation, as well as a $145,000 cut in the city’s contingency fund, increasing the amount of profit transferred from the city’s water fund by $250,000 and bumping up the total assessed value of property citywide by nearly $900,000."

Mayor Elect Madden responded enthusiastically: “It looks like his budget works, if everything falls into place,” Madden said. “It works on paper, but we’re going to have to deal with reality.”

Council President Elect Carmella Mantello (aka C-Lo) was equally enthusiastic: "They’re really doing nothing more here than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” Mantello said.

C-Lo just doesn't appreciate that there's going down with the ship and then there's going down with the ship in style. Besides, she better get used to it as the new Titanic Cruise Director. The real question is, will Carmella make room on the door for Pat after the ship goes down or, like Rose, hog the entire door while Pat succumbs to hypothermia?

The Special Meeting is scheduled for Monday. It should be, as always, quite a spectacle. We do not believe the tax cap will be breached. The four nays (Wiltshire, Gordon, Robertson & Zalewski) seem intractable. Alas, if they had only shown such backbone in the past. The fact is, they do not want this to occur no matter the consequences. Three of the four seem more than willing to sabotage the incoming administration and council, which is their right, of course.

While Mantello's comment isn't completely false, 'they' have been rearranging, painting, sanding and refinishing the chairs on the Titanic for more than a decade and the ship is still afloat, albeit listing. We'll look at that in the near future.

In the meantime, shuffle board in Barker Park, anyone?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015



According to The Record, Mayor Elect Madden will select Economic Development Coordinator Monica Kurzekeski as his Deputy Mayor. We reported this on Sunday but got it wrong. We thought it would be Monica Kurzejeski, not Kurzekeski. We hate to grab the low hanging fruit, especially in The Record orchard, but typos in the headline? Tippos in the axual stori happun, but in the hedline?

Background on the future Deputy Mayor can be found here.

Madden's first mayoral decision is an interesting one. It's our understanding that there will not be a Commissioner of Planning...and that economic development will be Balkanized, with the Deputy Mayor in overall charge of the various development project. This is, in our opinion, a na├»ve plan. While we'd have no issue with Monica being tapped to be the new Commissioner, we think she'll be in well over her head balancing economic schemes with the deputy mayor's duties. That would be a lot on anyone's plate. The political equivalent of letting loose the former administration in an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Further, and perhaps more important to Madden's long-term success, is the lack of political savvy in the two top spots. Madden has to avoid Mayor Rosamilia's habitual eschewing of the occasional political street fight. There are people who want Madden's job and they will maneuver accordingly.

Good luck and congratulations to Monica.


The chances that the real property tax cap will be overridden have diminished. Council President Wiltshire and District 1 Councilman Jim Gordon want to cancel the council meeting and the vote to override the tax cap. The grounds to do so are procedural. The argument goes something like this, though we don't pretend to be experts on Robert's Rules: The legislation to override the tax cap is the identical legislation that already failed. Therefore, the appropriate vehicle to reintroduce the tax cap override would be a motion to reconsider, not simply another vote. Then there's the fact that legislation must ferment for seven days before being put up for a vote....

At this point, it doesn't matter: The fat lady has sailed, the ship has sung, the metaphors have mixed. Wiltshire, Gordon and Zalewski have simply refused to do their jobs and have asked the administration to do it for them. They will not acknowledge that they have not only the authority but Charterial (Chartertustional?) duty to propose budget cuts and then negotiate those proposed cuts with the administration. Councilwoman Robertson (D-2) is a nonentity.

It's clear that Wiltshire would not vote to override the cap if the proposed increase was 2% This is his attempt to cripple the incoming administration. Councilman Zalewski (D-5) will follow suit. It may work.

One wonders if Madden is happy he may be playing Sisyphus for the next four years.

And a Happy Thanksgiving to our readers!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


From the Charter:

§C-70 I. Council and Mayor budget meeting. After the Council committees file their reports with the Clerk and prior to the final public hearing on the budget, a committee consisting of the Mayor, the Budget Officer, and the City Council members shall convene to review suggested changes to the recommended budget.  [Amended by L.L. No. 5-1994, § 47]

K.  Adoption of the budget. The City Council at a special meeting held after the final public hearing on or before the first day of December, or if that day falls on a Sunday, on or before the second day of December, shall by resolution adopt or amend and adopt the budget and submit the same to the Mayor for his/her approval...

From the City Council President:

From: Rodney Wiltshire []
Sent: Friday, November 20, 2015 3:31 PM
To: Cheryl.Christiansen; Adam.Sanzone; Anastasia Robertson; Andrew.Donovan; Bill.Chamberlain; Bill.Dunne;; Chris.Wheland; Erin Sullivan-Teta; Gabrielle.Mahoney;; George.Rogers; George.Vanbramer; Ian.Silverman;; Joe Licarrdi; Joe.Mazzariello; John.Salka; John.Tedesco; Kelly Cramer Esq.;; Lynn M. Kopka; Lou.Rosamilia; Marian.Drozd; Mike.Hayner; Monica.Kurzejeski; Peter.Ryan; Rhonda.Reed; Robert J. Doherty; Selena.Skiba; Sharon.Martin; Tom.Garrett; Warren.Mueller; Ken Zalewski
Subject: Re: meetings for 11-30-15

To all in the Administration,
The mayor and I spoke earlier today about the re-attempt to override the state’s tax cap and pass a budget that exceeds it.
I can only speak for myself, but as President, I will state that asking us to override the tax cap with the budget that has been presented is still not an option, and in order for us to even consider moving the agenda and the legislation, we expect to have a clear schedule of amendments by Monday with details of either cost savings, and or new qualified revenues that lower this tax increase dramatically.
Whatever cuts that you, as department heads, or administration staff need to make, need to be spelled out clearly; whether they include service cuts, staff, or other management decisions.  Identify in as much detail as necessary what the changes are to staff, salaries, personnel if particular, and services or schedules as you would propose them to be made.
We as a council will not be charged with making these decisions or choices for you.  
Please propose your plan that balances your essential services and staff with the needs of the taxpayers.
Again, these changes to the budget need to be clear, concise, and non-ambiguous.
This detail, and the overall tax increase, is a precursor to even considering the override.
Have a great weekend,

We suppose a reply of: Fuck You would be frowned upon by Rosamilia.

Wiltshire has yet to discover the beauty and grace of brevity. May we suggest the following:

"Please do our job without us and please make sure services remain intact and taxes as low as possible."

It is clear that Wiltshire wants to sabotage* any effort to avoid State involvement. A Friday afternoon e-mail demands that the administration not only do their job but the Council's as well, by Monday? The tax increase must be lowered dramatically? All of that just so an override might be considered.

The mayor has proposed his plan. The Council now counters with their own plan, or, more accurately, their amendments. That's the process. It occurred under Pattison and Tutunjian and for the last four years. We would recommend cutting Wiltshire out of the process but that presupposes he's involved with the process. Ignore him and work with Gordon or Robertson. Zalewski is just following orders and doesn't understand, by his own admission, the budget or budget process. Gordon can be reasoned with, Robertson's worth a shot.

So, why the sabotage? Rodney clearly dreams of escaping Elba and marching on Troy once again. This time, under the banner of fiscal responsibility. Watch for Team Troy. They will be back in a year. Thwarted ambition can be a very destructive force. Another reason Madden will need a political animal in City Hall. Someone who has the institutional knowledge as well as a keen political radar. We're sure Pattison can recommend someone.

* From the French, meaning sabotage

Monday, November 23, 2015


According to  The Record, "The Troy Industrial Development Authority approved an agreement Friday that could save more than $750,000 for the developer poised to undertake a $13.5 million project that includes buying and rehablitating the Martin Luther King Apartments.

IDA members unanimously agreed to a 30-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes deal with Omni Housing Development for the first phase of the project, which will reduce the number of units in the Troy Housing Authority’s apartment complex on Eddys Lane from 120 to between 77 and 84. Omni will make up for the lost units in the second phase of the project by buying property in the North Central neighborhood and constructing new buildings or rehabilitating existing structures to create an additional 37 units, according to Tim O’Byrne, Omni’s project manager."

The IDA will take a leasehold interest in the property and lease it back to Omni Development in order to protect the City's investment.

Frankly, we had no idea that a private entity could purchase public housing.

This is HUGE news! Humongous news! The Record printed a story  more than two paragraphs long, filled with facts and without typos.


From our friends at the Times Union: North Central, the city's poorest neighborhood, will get an economic boost of $1.8 million through a plan to convert the closed School 1 into 28 apartments. Redburn Development Companies, which has a track record of converting old buildings into residential space, outlined its proposal to the Troy Industrial Development Authority Friday.

School 1 will be transformed into one- and two-bedroom apartments, Damien Pinto-Martin, Redburn's vice president of development told the IDA. The rents would be market rate.

The total project cost, including the property, is $1,891,000, according to Redburn's application for financial assistance with the IDA. The developer asked for exemption of $55,000 in sales taxes and $14,000 in mortgage taxes. No property tax exemptions were listed.

The building will house apartments that were expelled from other apartment buildings or apartments that need remedial aid.

Sunday, November 22, 2015



Late last week Mayor Elect Patrick Madden announced the co-chairs of his transition team. The people who will try to ease Madden's evolution from not-for-profit pupa to beautiful mayoral butterfly.

We announced the Wallace Altes appointment earlier. The remaining co-chairs are Alisa Cahill Henderson, President of Duncan & Cahill, Inc. and James Spencer, Executive Director of Rensselaer Technology Park.

Duncan & Cahill is a general contractor and construction management firm located on Oakwood Avenue, Troy, New York. The fly-by-night firm has been in business since 1933. For those wondering about any political leanings, we do not know Alisa Henderson's politics. Duncan & Cahill has been a frequent, yet modest, contributor to County Executive Kathy Jimino's campaigns. They also contributed to Jim Conroy's 2007 campaign against Mayor Tutunjian. One of the few Inc's that backed Conroy over the incumbent Tutunjian.

In high school, Henderson was voted most likely to be co-chair of a transition team.

As the Executive Director of the Rensselaer Technology Park, James Spencer is  "responsible for developing and optimizing the Translational Pathways of the Institute's Innovation Ecosystem through Strategic Innovation Asset Development. Strategic Innovation Assets include institute-owned intellectual property (IP), startups and commercial real estate that supports commercialization and off-campus basic & applied research activities."

Want to know how impressive that is? It's so impressive that we don't understand a f%$#*g thing that means. Our Corporate-to-English translator is down. Another issue with Spencer is that he graduated from Brown University because he couldn't get in to Yale. May as well have gone to Princeton. His LinkedIn page can be found here.

We've been to the Rensselaer Technology Park and no offense to Mr. Spencer but none of the rides are any good and the lines are too long.

We are encouraged by these selections and  Madden's emphasis on the private sector. The answer to Troy's fiscal problems, easier said than accomplished, is simple: tax base growth. That's it. No surprises there. This will need to be tempered with a person or two who understand the limitations of the public sector.

This emphasis on the private sector is in contrast to the Council's transition team that appears weighed down with politico bloat, with that not-so-fresh feeling. However, the two groups have different concerns.


In other news, it looks like the odds of Monica K. becoming Deputy Mayor have gone up. We hear it is all but a done deal. While we have nothing against Monica and no opinion on what position she fills, we wonder if Madden will have at least one political street fighter on his team. Someone who knows city government and the Byzantine politics of the city. Just in case the knives need to come out.

Finally, with the absentee ballots counted, Democratic At-Large candidate Carol Weaver lost to Republican Kim Ashe-McPherson by sixty votes. That a mere two votes per election district.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Under the Troy City Charter Section 55-(a)1.23(i) the Mayor has invoked the well-worn DO-OVER provision in an attempt to save resident's money. A special meeting has been called to seek another override of the Real Property Tax Cap. This time, it looks like the tax hike could be 5-6%. We think it could actually be just shy of 5% if they really give it the Old Troy Try.

We're sure that Mayor-Elect Madden as well as the incoming City Council would prefer a 5% tax increase rather than the alternative, which would a be a State Nanny for the next three or four years. While we wouldn't mind a Hollywood Nanny:

State issued nannies from the Office of the New York State Comptroller look more like:

Mayor Elect Madden had this to say:

"I'm going to have to focus on the budget. We're committed to doing everything to make this work." The obviousness of this statement doesn't really add to the conversation.

The new Republican majority wants to achieve cost savings and develop a workable budget for the future, Mantello said."Everything and anything has to be considered. The city has to be working more efficiently." The obviousness of this statement doesn't really add to the conversation.

What is of interest is a quote from current Council President Rodney Wiltshire's letter:

"Whatever cuts that you, as department heads, or administration staff need to make, need to be spelled out clearly; whether they include service cuts, staff, or other management decisions. This detail, and the overall tax increase, is a precursor to even considering the override," Wiltshire said.

At the Wednesday night vote, Wiltshire said the administration has not collaborated with the City Council during the budget discussions.

That Wiltshire intends to be at the vote is progress. Once again, though, he is shirking his, and the Council's, collective responsibilities. The Charter gives the Council the authority to propose cuts. This has never meant asking department heads to cut their own budgets. It has meant that the Council sits down, reviews the budget lines and recommends specific cuts. It's called work. While this did occur, the Council's cuts were the equivalent of going through the city's couch looking for loose change.

Wiltshire's comment that the administration has not collaborated with the City Council is demonstrably false. It is Wiltshire and a minion or two that will not meet with the administration. The fact that the Council President wrote a letter instead of requesting a meeting with the Mayor to discuss this says all there is to say.

Do Wiltshire, Zalewski, Robertson and Gordon know that if the cap isn't lifted the 9.3% increase will go into effect? Their constituents will pay more for less services. We're not sure each of them understand that simple fact.  Nor are we convinced all the people allegedly calling Councilman Zalewski asking him to vote no understand this fact. Wiltshire appears willing to ram the derelict  SS Team Troy straight into the SS City of Troy and the devil-be-damned that we don't have enough lifeboats.

Wiltshire said on Wednesday he would vote to override the tax cap if the increase was 5%. He has refused to lead so it is now time for him to step aside and let the adults do the work. Isn't it vacation time? We're not sure if we've ever seen thwarted ambition manifest itself in such a bitter, public manner.

We do have hope that the eventual increase will be 5%. We hope that Councilman Gordon will reconsider his vote. We have continued hope that Madden and Mantello continue to talk and collaborate and that January 1, 2016 heralds a drama-free period in Troy's history.