SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — Even with threatened layoffs of about 40 cops and 33 firefighters, Mayor Gary McCarthy warned the city would also need to make deep cuts to other departments unless federal aid is restored.
McCarthy told City Council members Monday night during their committee meeting that if that money doesn’t materialize and the job cuts don’t happen, the municipality could go bankrupt by the end of the year. The mayor is trying to plug a projected $11.5 million budget hole that is a result of reduced revenue coming in because of the coronavirus pandemic.
His ominous warning came in response to concerns raised by councilwomen Leesa Perazzo and Marion Porterfield about the staff reductions to public safety.
“We have to do everything that we can possibly do to make sure we’re not reducing our police and fire,” said Perazzo.
McCarthy reiterated that employees from other departments in City Hall, not just the police and fire, could face furloughs.
Perazzo also lamented that the mayor didn’t alert city leaders before going public last week with the possible cuts to public safety.
She also pushed for a conversation about alternative options – including using fund balance and reviewing overtime costs – but that discussion did not happen.
Porterfield said “first-responders is not the first place to go,” and suggested that some of the stimulus monies and possible community development block grant money the city might receive in the future could help bridge the budget deficit gap.
McCarthy took aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s suggestion last month about allowing “states to use the bankruptcy route.”
The mayor, a Democrat, said that many upstate cities – including Albany, Troy, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and Binghamton – are facing the similar fiscal crises as a result of COVID-19.
“There are going to be major reductions in staffing across not only Schenectady but other communities, and we collectively need to get the message out that we need the federal government to step up and be a partner and provide some funding,” added McCarthy. “We will have to make cuts or this city goes really to the point of bankruptcy by the end of this year.”
In the end, the government body agreed on drafting a resolution urging McConnell and other politicians in Washington to restore funding to Schenectady and other municipalities in financial dire straits because of COVID-19.
Last week, McCarthy announced police and fire departments would have to make $3 million and $2 million cuts, respectively.
The mayor conceded laying off dozens of cops and firefighters would have a devastating impact on the city.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service