SARATOGA SPRINGS — As the city begins to move toward budget season – a 2021 budget must be approved by the end of November – the estimated revenues that will factor into that budget are anticipated at nearly $8 million less than was budgeted for 2020.
“Even with the phased reopening, our city cannot expect revenues to rise to former levels immediately upon the reopening of our downtown,” city Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan told the council this week.
“It is generally held that it will be months, if not years before the new economy establishes itself well. In addition social, behavioral and consumer changes due to closed businesses, wide-spread unemployment and other results of COVID-19 will continue to affect revenue collection well into the future.”
Madigan estimated that revenue collection - without any additional state or federal aid - at approximately $7.8 million less than the amount estimated for the pre-COVID world of 2020. As such, the 2021 general operating budget revenue is anticipated to be $40.9 million, down from the current year’s $48.7 million adopted budget.
Madigan reported the following year-to-date comparisons:
Sales Tax: year-to-date collection 19% lower than last year. More specifically - May 2020 is 37% less than May 2019.
Occupancy Tax: year-to-date collection is 54% lower than last year at this time. Specifically, 2nd quarter collection is 78% less than 2nd quarter collections in 2019.
Mortgage Tax: 0.24% lower than 2019, year-to-date.
Some Good News: The state released 80% - or $1.86 million - of annual VLT aid amount to the city.
COVID-19 SAFETY PROTOCOLS
City officials said this week that a newly amended state law will provide greater clarity in enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols. The amended law comes in the wake of some businesses and municipalities alike requesting stronger language than what had previously been issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as an Executed Order.
“The New York State Department of Health (on July 9) amended the Public Health Law, specifically Section 66, which codifies statutorily the requirements that Gov. Cuomo had implemented in the executive order and also imposed the ability for civil penalties associated with that, establishing authority for state and local municipalities to enforce those provisions,” City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis said Tuesday.
“So it’s something we’re looking at to address that’s not necessarily punitive or restrictive, but lets people know that health is a priority for Saratoga Springs, that you can come here and feel comfortable,” said Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton.
“We’ve been looking for ways to encourage and enforce people wearing face masks in and around Saratoga Springs. It continues to be a problem, and the problem has grown. We keep hearing from people who are uncomfortable to leave their homes, or uncomfortable to visit here because they’re afraid they’re not going to be safe and healthy if they visit our downtown,” she said, adding that the biggest problem is weekend nights on Caroline Street, where large crowds gather along the sidewalks outside late-night establishments.
‘It’s not really the bars and restaurants, they’re doing a great job, it’s the people who are coming downtown and wandering in big packs on the sidewalks (and) no one’s wearing a mask. So that to me is the more urgent situation for us to be able to address the safety issue through this public health amendment.” Dalton said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “We’re not going to be scouring Broadway in the middle of the day, seeking out people who aren’t wearing masks.”
DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco argued that the police had better things to do than to enforce people wearing masks. Commissioner Dalton responded to say there already exists a police presence along Caroline Street, and actions there wouldn’t take away from any other safety issues in the city.
Commissioner Madigan added that there is no reason why police wouldn’t want to ask large crowds who had gathered to disperse or to don masks, and that pedestrians exhibiting safety measures also provide a positive display for local economic reasons in assuring people it is safe to visit and shop downtown.
The amended Public Health Law – which may be read in its entirety on the NYS website under New York Codes, Rules and Regulations heading - contains some exemptions, and reads, in part: Any person who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face-covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or face-covering when in a public place and unable to maintain, or when not maintaining, social distance.
SARATOGA COUNTY DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC HEALTH RESIGNS
Saratoga County Director of Public Health Catherine Duncan announced this week that she will retire, effective July 31. As such, the agency is currently actively seeking to fill the position of Commissioner Of Health.
The appointment to the position is for a term of six years at a salary of $132,446 plus benefits. Job responsibilities include to direct, manage and regulate the Department’s delivery of public health services throughout Saratoga County. Requirements include: being a physician currently registered to practice medicine in New York State and possessing two years of experience in administrative practice in a health-related organization or government agency. For more information about the position, call 518-885-2225, or go to: www.saratogacountyny.gov.
HEALTH & WELLNESS PROPRIETORS UTILIZE CITY PARKS
The City Council unanimously approved on Tuesday, and Commissioner of Public Works Anthony “Skip” Scirocco announced Wednesday that Saratoga Springs based gyms, fitness trainers, and yoga studios are able to utilize Congress Park, High Rock Park, Geyser Road Veterans Memorial Park, and the Waterfront Park to host workout sessions without paying rental fees through Sept. 7.
Health and wellness proprietors can host classes at the specified parks by filling out a rental use agreement.
Regulations: No permanent equipment can be installed and a strict carry-in, carry-out procedure must be followed. Safety guidelines set forth by the CDC must be adhered to including mask wearing and social distancing. No loud speakers, loud music, or other activity interfering with others’ enjoyment of the park will be authorized. Providers must submit an anticipated schedule and location to inform the city of routine dates and times of usage, and DPW will resolve any conflicts between providers and/or other renters of the parks; location preference will be given to paid renters. A Certificate of Insurance must also be furnished.
COVID-19 Testing Sites and Antibody Testing Sites for Saratoga County change frequently and are updated at the Saratoga County website. Currently, sites include: Saratoga Hospital and Wilton Medical Arts – where COVID-19 and Antibody testing are available to Saratoga County residents of all ages with a provider order; Malta Med Emergent Care - Provider order required, and Saratoga Hospital Medical Group Primary Care in Ballston Spa - Antibody testing only – available with provider order. Appointment information, criteria for testing, and a regularly updated list of testing sites is available at: www.saratogacountyny.gov.