Albany Left Out of Cuomo's Budget, Mayor Still Fighting for Funding

ALBANY, N.Y. — Governor Andrew Cuomo's 30-day budget amendments were released Thursday night, essentially locking in the governor's stated budget priorities. A $12.5 million funding stream for the city of Albany is among them.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan has asked for the dedicated funding stream, which she calls "Capital City Funding," in each of the past three years. In 2015, Albany was awarded $5 million in grants; in 2016, the state awarded the full $12.5 million in what's called a "spin-up" payment.

Sheehan called a news conference at Albany City Hall Friday morning, asking for support from legislators, city employees and residents as she lobbies to restore the funding stream. The $12.5 million is meant to close a structural gap in the city's 2017 budget, which was already passed last year on the hope that the money would come through.

Sheehan said Friday that she still has assurances from the governor's office that funding for Albany is still a priority.

"We cannot raise this funding on the backs of the taxpayers," she said. "We have been doing more with less than any other large city in the state."

Sheehan highlighted a state funding model which limits Albany's aid, partially because of an abundance of tax-exempt, state-owned property. In some cases, Albany receives a quarter of the state funding that other large upstate cities are given.

"It's time for the state to stop punishing us, just because we are the Capital City," Sheehan said.

Rich Azzopardi, a spokesman for Governor Cuomo's office, released a statement Friday indicating support: “We’ve been in constant contact with Mayor Sheehan’s office, as recently as this morning, and we anticipate reaching a final budget agreement that will benefit the residents of the city of Albany and New York state as a whole.”

Sheehan says she has not lost hope and is not in panic mode, but did concede Friday that city staff are analyzing cuts ranging from city concerts to the police department, in case Albany does not receive the full funding stream.

Sheehan said she will devote extra focus to the state Senate and Assembly now.

Albany's legislative delegation, including Democrat Assembly members Patricia Fahy and John McDonald, and Senator Neil Breslin, released a joint statement Friday morning, promising their full support. The statement read in part: "Considering that over 60 percent of the property in the City is tax exempt, it is unfair to place an even greater tax burden on Albany residents and businesses."

2017 is a mayoral election year in Albany. Sheehan has not formally announced her bid for re-election, and her staff declined comment on how this development might affect an upcoming campaign.

Common Council president Carolyn McLaughlin has already announced her intention to run, and on Friday morning, she said City Hall did not share the budget news with her, nor tell her the mayor would address it publicly.

"We have to take a different approach," McLaughlin said of the city's fiscal state. "And I think that the transparency that was missing this morning is another indication of the leadership style the mayor has, that is not working for us."

Ward 15 councilman Frank Commisso is also exploring a run for mayor, and seized the opportunity Friday to slam Sheehan for budgeting state funding that was not guaranteed.

"We wouldn't want to think that [funding] would be put in the budget without some level of assurance [from the governor's office]," Commisso said. "But here we are now."

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