ALBANY, NY – The city is facing a $17.9 million revenue shortfall that could result in dozens of layoffs if the city doesn’t receive additional federal aid, city officials said this week.
During a Finance Committee meeting Thursday evening, Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s administration laid out the city’s financial position for City Council members but wouldn’t commit to any layoff scenarios.
Sheehan’s spokesman, David Galin, told the Council the city was trying to affect as few city workers as possible and that the city faced “dire” choices.
“This is where we are now, is trying to figure out what that $9.9 million looks like,” he said.
The city estimates its sales tax for the year could fall 20 percent and departmental income could fall as much as 39 percent. Budget officials are planning on a possible 20 percent reduction in unrestricted state aid as well. The plan to fill that hole is to rely on a combination of city savings and layoffs. The city will use $3.5 million from it’s debt service fund, $4.5 million from its fund balance, requiring a $9.9 million cut from city departments.
The city has a spending freeze in place and is hoping to realize savings in other areas, such as gasoline purchases and overtime.
Adding to matters is that the city could also be facing a cash crunch at the end of the month. The city is sitting on $14 million in tax warrants for the county, which is normally paid at the end of the year. If the county decides to call for that cash early, the city will be in an even more precarious financial position.
Council members expressed frustration at the lack information at the meeting. Originally the committee and Sheehan’s administration had agreed on a more in-depth briefing that included various layoff scenarios.
Finance Committee chair Ginnie Farrell called the briefing “completely unacceptable.” The council has a responsibility to inform the residents they represent, added Councilman Jahmel Robinson.
“I don’t want to scare people either but people in this city are scared and also want to know what is happening,” he said.
The administration was constantly receiving new information and did not want to unnecessarily scare employees by giving out a number, Galin said.
During a caucus Wednesday evening, council members said they were told to expect layoffs between 55 and 75 employees. However one option the city is considering is trying to save 22 jobs by moving city employees in to various grant-funded positions.
Council President Corey Ellis said Thursday the Council would take whatever steps it could, including possibly cutting members pay, to save as many jobs as it could.
“We believe that any cuts should be done in a transparent and equitable manner and we look forward to working with the mayor’s office to achieve this. The council understands and values Albany employees and all they are doing to help our constituents get through this crisis healthy and safe,” he said in a statement.
The discussion of these cuts comes after the city laid off approximately 50 crossing guard layoffs last week.
It was not immediately clear which departments the city is looking to cut from. Sheehan previously said the city is looking at all departments for possible layoffs and salary reductions. The total number of layoffs will depend on the salaries of those laid off in various departments.
Council members also said the police department would be moving forward with a 30-recruit academy in June, rather than a planned 45-member class. It is also moving forward with an eight-member firefighter class.