Recorder News Staff
Tuesday's Budget Review Session in City Hall brought many department heads to the podium to defend their budgets.
Among those was Jim Derrick, maintenance supervisor for the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, who began the session. Though Derrick said the budget was essentially a carbon copy from last year, a new revenue line entitled "Trail fees" in the prospective budget that showed a number of $32,000 brought some concerns from council members.
Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said the trail fee is essentially a charge each time someone uses a cart on the course.
"For years and years, and prior to my administration, we talked about the fact that the cart paths were problematic and we talked about this to increase revenue," she said.
But when Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas questioned Mike Bucciferro, chair of the city's golf commission, on whether this revenue from the trail fees was in his budget, Bucciferro said it was not.
Dybas later called the addition "shenanigans."
"That's what I'll call it, pulled at the last minute after I said they did a very credible job in trying to go through and develop rates that would keep the people playing. I can't support it," he said. "I think it's a great idea, but you need to put that out well before time."
The council agreed to take it out.
The other piece that had Dybas baffled was a $40,000 increase in administration fees up to $90,000.
Gerard DeCusatis, corporation counsel for the city, said he put the increase in because the health insurance had decreased by a large amount.
The line item was later reduced to $55,697.
Council members also discussed the possible move to have a general manager at the course, something that Bucciferro said is a work in progress.
DeCusatis said the proposed budget doesn't include those budget changes under having the possible general manager.
"You need to account for that somehow," he said.
Dybas suggested that when more information is available for the costs associated with a general manager, the commission come to the council to do a budget modification in the fall.
But golf was just one of the many departments heard from Tuesday evening at the review session. During a discussion with Ray Halgas, general foreman for the Department of Public Works, council members brought up the added general services manager that showed up in the 2013-2014 budget.
Halgas said he was not the one to put that in; Thane said she had.
"The reason we put it in was because there has been some complaints and discussion of oversight of DPW, problems with people not being where they are opposed to be, lengthy lunches, early off from the job. These calls come into my office," she said.
"We've proposed that we had a supervising position added that would be solely in charge of oversight of the crews."
Dybas said the taxpayer doesn't need the added position, with Second Ward Alderwoman Valerie Beekman adding that it would essentially be bringing a new supervisor in to "a bad situation." Third Ward Alderwoman Gina DeRossi, while she said she appreciates what the mayor was attempting to do, said didn't feel "at this point that we can afford this position."
Council members agreed to take the position out of the budget.
Among Halgas' many sections of the budget, he also brought up his concerns with garbage disposal, as come April 30, 2014, the MOSA agreement ends. Halgas said he has no idea what will be next for the city's disposal process.
One of the last presentations of the evening was from Rob Spagnola, city recreation director, who began by speaking briefly about the listed salary increase for himself.
"Simply to state, I'm the longest tenured department head here," Spagnola said. "I've never asked for anything as far as compensation for myself."
He said he puts in a lot of extra hours and there is a "drastic difference" between himself and the next highest paid department head.
Fifth Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero also asked about the addition to the assistant director position.
Spagnola said when he put in for the assistant position last year, he never anticipated what would happen with the Bacon school and the arts center. But, he said: "The opportunity is there to really expand and give the community what they're asking for."
When raised to the next level, the position would become a civil service position.
First Ward Alderman Joseph Isabel said he is for the work the department is doing.
"It's something that's really for the first time the people in this community are cheering this on," he said. "It's (the recreation budget) is $364,000 and were subsidizing the bus department $324,000 and nobody complains about that."
"I think you're doing a great job and the amount of money you spend in that the citizens of Amsterdam are benefiting from it, in both places."
Beekman chimed in later to say that the work is getting residents, especially young people, active in the community.
Council members briefly brought up the turf installation, which Spagnola said has been delayed simply because it's too late in the season.
Council members kept the changes to Spagnola's salary and the assistant position.
Throughout the evening, council members also heard from Richard Miller in the Engineering Department, Cheryl Scott in the Transportation Department, and Robert von Hasseln in the Community and Economic Development Department.