Law’s impact on city is about $271,000 in 2017, not $2 million
(Oct. 19, 2016) – The Albany County Legislature’s Majority Office was disappointed to see Albany Mayor Kathy M. Sheehan use incorrect information to politicize Resolution 445, legislation that was passed by the Legislature by a 30-2 margin last week.
The mayor, city Treasurer Darius Shahinfar and city Auditor Leif C. Engstrom sent a memorandum Tuesday to Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy, urging him to veto Resolution 445, a policy that protects county taxpayers. The memo, we regret to say, misinterprets the legislation and is loaded with inaccuracies. Majority Counsel F. Patrick Jeffers refuted the mayor’s claims in a letter to legislators on Tuesday.
Despite the erroneous contentions of city officials, Albany County will continue to reimburse its cities, towns and villages for all delinquent taxes, water bills and demolition costs. Those items amount to nearly $4.35 million of $4.62 million in average annual delinquent property tax costs Albany County reimbursed the City of Albany for during the last three years.
Resolution 445 addresses only the reimbursement of general service charges, or unpaid municipal bills for residential board-ups, building stabilizations, illegal trash, debris and dumping, snow removal, fire and emergency services, occupancy certificates, overgrown lawns, court fees, sidewalks, special utilities, clean-ups and vacant-building charges. The City of Albany turned over to the county a total of $266,505 in general service charges in 2013, $269,846 in 2014 and $277,188 in 2015, according to numbers the city provided to the county. That means the city would have to cover about $271,180 – the three-year average – in 2017, not $2 million, as the mayor continues to assert. Also, the mayor overlooks the fact that, under the law, the city will be reimbursed for these general service charges as they are collected by the county.
Nowhere in the legislation does it say the county will cease covering the city for delinquent property taxes, which averaged nearly $3 million a year over the last three years; unpaid water and sewer fees, which averaged $1.1 million a year during the same period; or $328,000 in annual outstanding demolition costs. Unpaid water and sewer charges and demolition costs are inflated by the time they reach the county for reimbursement due to added late charges, interest and penalties imposed by the city.
The driving force behind Resolution 445 was to protect Albany County from having to cover unpaid charges or fees that municipalities may introduce. For instance, the City of Albany this year implemented a trash fee on renters, from which it expects to generate more than $3 million in revenue from in 2016 and 2017. Once these trash fees are sent to the county for collection, they will contain a 90 percent late-surcharge, which almost doubles the original fee. The county’s taxpayers should not have to underwrite the city’s trash fee.
Additionally, the City of Albany still owes Albany County $224,000 from the 2015 county tax levy, which should have been paid in the first quarter of 2016.
The chart below identifies the amount of unpaid taxes and fees that Albany County reimbursed the City of Albany for over the last three years. Pursuant to Resolution 445, the City of Albany will still receive unpaid taxes, water charges and demolition costs. General service charges will be paid to the city as the county receives them. The breakdown: