In a scathing audit, the state Comptroller said Troy has run a $6 million deficit over the last three years.
That’s not a slight miscalculation – that’s a structural problem. In other words there is no money from anywhere to continue operations as they are now. The water and sewer funds are tapped to the max, the contingency fund has been spent down and the capital fund was spent on operational costs rather than things like paving roads.
The city has to cut expenses or raise more revenue and it doesn’t appear anyone has any idea how to go about doing that.
Mayor Lou Rosamilia has ignored the problem and his proposed 2015 budget includes massive one shots on each side of the ledger, a $650,000 source of revenue for the sale of the old City Hall site and he proposes to defer $1.9 million of pension costs until 2016. That’s just pushing the problem off and will make things worse.
Council President Rodney Wiltshire, appearing on Talk1300, said Trojans can expect a tax hike. That’s pretty much a given at this point in time but the revenue generated could be offset by people moving out.
Councilman Jim Gordon has the most creative idea – eliminate public safety from the budget and charge everyone a fee, including the non-profits which currently don’t pay taxes. But, that’s years out since it would take participation from the state Legislature and turn the entire taxing structure on its head.
One proposal, though, that makes sense and supported by Councilwoman Lynn Kopka, is closing the Fire Department’s North Station. It would bring immediate and long term relief, but for some reason her Council colleagues crucified her for even talking about cuts to public safety.
Here’s a bit of history.
The Fire Department’s central offices were located in the Police Department building and while it wasn’t practical or efficient it was crowded. So, the city set out to find a new home and set its sights on what was then Bloomfield’s junkyard on Sixth Avenue.
Part of the justification behind building a new station was the savings generated by closing the North Station at the corner of North and River streets. It’s a small station with only a pumper but it is manned 24-7 and that constitutes some 14 shifts that have to be filled by firefighters. And the city just hired 14 new firefighters ... get the possible correlation?
In 1993 Central Station was open and, with the union’s blessing, North Station was closed. As an aside, at the time Gary Favro was head of the Uniformed Firefighters Association and there is no one I know of who is more of a union guy than Favro.
Skip ahead four years, Mayor Mark Pattison had been in office about a year and a half. In an effort to help an ally on the Council, Christine Stone, win re-election in District 2 Pattison re-opened North Station. Stone lost anyway.
Skip ahead a few more years, the station was close for about 18 months for repairs that included a new roof and other structural work. I’m guessing nobody noticed.
And nobody would notice if it were closed now. Central Station is blocks away and was designed to handle the calls taken by North Station.
Kopka has the the wherewithal to realize the city is in deep trouble and the guts to say public safety is not sacrosanct.
Public Safety constitutes 51 percent of the city’s budget. A bank robber goes to the bank for one reason – that’s where the money is. If you want to fix structural deficiencies in the budget – you have to look in the same place.