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State Board accepts Albany's request to review city books

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ALBANY, N.Y.— The City of Albany's financial books will be reviewed by the State Financial Restructuring Board.

The board unanimously accepted Albany's request for a review on Wednesday. Mayor Kathy Sheehan said she knew she had a fiscally-strapping issue when she took office, but admits she needs some help getting out of the hole. She said she was not surprised by the approval and looks forward to the boards recommendations.

"We hope to be able to have a dialogue with the members of the board and answer question and really tak about what we do to get our city on to a path where we have a sustainable budget," she said.

The Board's rules suggest that New York can be eligible for up to $5 million in assistance, but the money comes with suggestions on how to allocate the money.

"Things that will work in Rochester may not work in Albany," Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said. "So the recommendations, they may be non-binding but there are things tha may come back that just don't work."

When Mayor Sheehan originally brought her proposal to the Common Council, it passed by a vote of 13 to 1.

Common Council member Judd Krasher was the one vote against the proposal.

"The biggest concern is the sheer amount of unknowns that are surrounding the financial restructuring board," he said. "We don't have any case studies to look at, and I felt very uncomfortable taking our city and my constituents into a tunnel without a flashlight."

Sheehan compares the Board's recommendations to going to the doctor - it may offer suggestions, but you don't have to listen.

She hopes to close the city's $16 million deficit. She said she can cut the number to $12 million immeditaely by fixing some internal issues, but she hopes the rest can be covered by the state.

"They could provide us with a pilot for the Harriman Campus which we've all just heard is going to see additional state construction happening on that," she said. "They could also look at fixing the AIM formula so that the city gets AIM aid that is at least somewhat comparable to other cities with similar demographics to the City of Albany."

Councilman Krasher hopes the Board can include an $11.7 million annual payment to make up for the tax-exempt areas in the Capital Region.

"Hopefully, that pilot comes through," he said. "Obviously, right now we don't have that, and I am certainly understanding that the mayor's in a really though situation in getting our house in order. She inherited a fiscal mess."

Assemblymember Fahy stated 57 percent of Albany's property is tax exempt due to hosting state government. She and Assemblyman John McDonald are working together to not only privatize the Harriman State Office Campus but are also looking for more places the state can pay taxes in Albany.

"And that coincidentally is estimated to be about $11 to $12 million if we were to get the estimates and those estimates that have been out there for a number of years," Fahy said. "They are probably even higher now in terms of the actual value of that property. So if we're not going to privatize it, we need to do the right thing."

Mayor Sheehan's $4 million contribution plus the $12 million for the Harriman Campus pilot would eliminate the $16 million deficit.


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