Council Takes Two Steps Back

The tentative City of Amsterdam budget that included removal of a 3% tax cap, a 10% increase in retiree health contributions and a 17% increase in water fees was struck down last night by a vote of 4 to 3.  Mayor Ann Thane, Controller Heather Reynicke and Alderman William Wills voted FOR the proposed budget, while Aldermen Richard Leggiero, Joseph Isabel, Julie Pierce and Gina De Rossi voted AGAINST the budget.

The Common  Council is obviously feeling the effects of the taxpayer revolt exhibited in local blogs, on Facebook and through emails and phone calls. Montgomery County Legislator Karl Baia has taken up the cause with a petition signed by citizens against removing the 3% tax cap established by voter referendum. Montgomery County Business Development Center Director Ken Rose has issued a letter to City Hall expressing his concern of how the removal of the tax cap will negatively affect current and potential businesses in the County. There are also two pending lawsuits if the City does try to remove the 3% tap and utility fee cap. A large group of retired police officers and firefighters blasted the Common Council at Tuesday nights meeting concerning both the proposed 10% increase in retiree heath contributions and the removal of the 3% tax cap.

I sat through the Council meeting that lasted nearly two and a half hours. The public participation segment was the longest. Here are a few excerpts:

Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis and Aldermen Leggiero, Isabel, Pierce and DeRossi hold a private meeting before the start of the Amsterdam Common Council meeting held on May 3, 2011.

A retired City of Amsterdam Police Officer addresses the Common Council about the proposed 10% increase in retiree health insurance contributions, the proposed elimination of the 3% cap on taxes and fees put in place by mandatory referendum and paying the Montgomery County 911 bill of about $3,000. for last winters activation of the emergency phone system to get residents to move their cars during a snowstorm.

Vincenzo (Jim) Nicosia demands the Amsterdam Common Council respond to his budget questions. His request is at first denied by Mayor Thane who states the public participation section is not a back and forth segment. Controller Heather Reynicke decides to respond to Mr. Nicosia’s questions about a property reevaluation item in the budget.

Alderman Rich Leggiero, the voice of sensibility, speaks for the people by denouncing the 10% increase in retiree health contributions and the proposed removal of the 3% tax and utility fee cap

When the question of adopting the tentative budget came up, Alderman Julie Pierce spoke up for the group that met prior to the meeting, suggesting they go back to budget negotiations.

There will be a special meeting of the Budget Review Committee on Friday, May 6, 2011 at 6:30PM where they are expected to go back to the table and make the necessary cuts to reduce the proposed budget, eliminating the need for a 10% retiree health contribution and rescinding of the 3% tax cap.

The impact of the failure of the City to establish an on time budget pales by comparison to the proposed budget that would have been approved had the Common Council not come to their senses. This battle is far from over, so continue with all your efforts to persuade our Common Council to bring the proposed budget back to one the citizens of Amsterdam can afford.

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