Growing role for Albany County Land Bank

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From left to right: Watervliet Mayor Michael Manning, Albany County Legislature Chairman Sean Ward, Albany County Land Bank Board Chairman Charles Touhey, Legislature Majority Leader Frank Commisso, Land Bank Executive Director Adam Zaranko, Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy and Albany County Clerk Bruce Hidley.  

Plaudits pouring in for budding Albany County Land Bank 

ALBANY (Nov. 16, 2016) – The Albany County Land Bank is emerging as a statewide leader in acquiring, improving and selling abandoned properties.

Launched by the Albany County Legislature and County Executive Daniel P. McCoy, the Albany County Land Bank combats blighted – or “zombie” – properties by acquiring them for repairs and private sales. In two years, the non-profit corporation has obtained more than 250 tax-delinquent properties, sold dozens, and made improvements to more than 100, making it the second largest land bank in New York as measured by acquisitions and fourth largest in dispositions, Executive Director Adam Zaranko said.

On Tuesday, Albany County Legislature Chairman Sean Ward and Majority Leader Frank Commisso joined McCoy and others in The Watervliet Dome to deliver a $500,000 check to Zaranko. The funding brought the county’s total commitment to the Land Bank to $1.5 million, not counting the $250,000 dedicated in next year’s county budget.

Later Tuesday, at a meeting of the Land Bank, board members shared a note written by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to Chairman Sean Ward, congratulating Albany County on its “tremendous success of the Albany County Land Bank.”

It was Schneiderman who previously supplied the Land Bank with $2.88 million in start-up money obtained through a settlement with big banks. This month, Schneiderman announced he would dedicate $20 million more to land banks in the state. “I look forward to continuing to partner with committed leaders like you and organizations like the Albany County Land Bank, as we assist communities rebuilding in the wake of the housing crisis,” the attorney general told Ward.

County leaders went to Watervliet Tuesday for the check presentation and to thank Land Bank employees for their help in stabilizing neighborhoods. The Land Bank is acquiring properties in all of the county’s 19 municipalities for the first time this year, bringing its work to urban and suburban locations throughout the county.

“We are now all over Albany County,” Frank Commisso said. “And we continue to grow.”

The Legislature authorizes property transfers to the Land Bank, which works to improve the buildings and lots. Buyers are required to demonstrate they can return properties to productive use. “This is something we haven’t had before,” Ward said. “Now, we have a mechanism to get the properties back on the tax rolls and into the communities.”

The Land Bank has acquired nine properties in Watervliet. It’s led efforts to clean out, stabilize and demolish buildings. It has sold one of the properties, and pending offers on two. On Tuesday, the Land Bank announced its latest renewal project: A full rehabilitation of a vacant, single-family residence at 1216 Fourth Ave., Watervliet. “We’re very excited to have the Land Bank gearing up the way it is,” Watervliet Mayor Michael Manning said.

The Land Bank has acquired more than 30 properties in Cohoes over the last several months, and initiated multiple improvements. It has closed, or is in the process of closing, on eight sales in the city. A recently announced project involves demolishing an unoccupied structure at 330 Ontario St., to make room for a 72-unit, planned mixed-use development called the Mosaic Village.

Cohoes Mayor Shawn M. Morse called the Land Bank one of the great tools available for fighting neighborhood decay and creating economic development opportunities.

The City of Albany still accounts for 82 percent of the Land Bank’s acquisitions, with the greatest prevalence of its property around the Sheridan Hollow, West Hill, Arbor Hill and South End neighborhoods. In the Land Bank’s first year, properties in the City of Albany accounted for 98 percent of the organization’s land assets. Some 28 Land Bank properties in the City of Albany are included in the ongoing Breathing Lights display, an arts project initiative funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge that is designed to create awareness of vacant buildings.

In a September 2016 report to the Legislature, Zaranko reported the Land Bank had acquired a total of 259 abandoned or tax-delinquent properties, sold 30, and had another 13 dispositions pending. The Land Bank generated $512,300 in sales, and stands to make an additional $67,750 on the pending ones.

The Land Bank is moving its office from 200 Henry Johnson Boulevard to 69 State St., Albany, effective Dec. 1. It is always searching for additional funding opportunities and donations. Its telephone number will remain (518) 407-0309.

 

Communications director for the Albany County Legislature

Dennis.Yusko@albanycounty.com

Phone: 518-447-5527; Cell: 518-330-7544; Twitter: @DemMajority

Albany County Legislature to propose 2017 budget changes

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Legislators, including members of the Audit and Finance Committee, discussed the proposed 2017 Albany County Budget over four meetings starting Oct. 28.

ALBANY (Nov. 14, 2016) – After weeks of input and review, the Albany County Legislature will begin hammering out a final 2016 county budget with County Executive Daniel P. McCoy.

In October, McCoy presented to the Legislature a $652 million Tentative Budget that would not increase the county’s tax rate. Over four public meetings held the last few weeks, county legislators led by Audit and Finance Chairman Gary Domalewicz (D-District 10) dissected revenue and spending lines proposed for each department. The meetings were videotaped and can be seen on the Legislature’s section of the county website (see Audit and Finance).

The Legislature’s 2017 budget review enters a new phase starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, when the Audit and Finance Committee convenes to discuss its proposed additions and deletions to the spending plan. A legislative budget report must be filed with the county clerk by Nov. 20.

Legislators will hold a public hearing on the revised budget at 7:15 p.m. Nov. 22 in the Albany County Courthouse. The Audit and Finance Committee will meet a final time to review the 2017 Albany County Budget at 6 p.m. Nov. 30.

There are two meetings of the full Albany County Legislature scheduled for December. Depending on budget negotiations with the county executive, the body could vote on the 2017 Albany County Budget at a meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 5 in the county courthouse. A second meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 19.

Majority Office Responds to Albany City Officials

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:

2013-2015-coa-property-tax-bill-breakdown

 

Albany County Legislature sets 2017 budget hearings

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Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy presents the county’s Tentative Budget for 2017 last Friday in Albany.

ALBANY (Oct. 14) ­– The Albany County Legislature on Thursday designated its Audit and Finance Committee to review the county executive’s Tentative Budget for 2017, and set two hearings to receive public comment.

Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy presented a $652 million Tentative Budget last week, a fiscal plan that would not increase the county’s tax rate for a third consecutive year. The Legislature’s Democratic leadership – Chairman Sean Ward and Majority Leader Frank Commisso – credited McCoy last week for forwarding a budget with flat spending.

The Legislature on Thursday scheduled its first public hearing on the Tentative Budget for 7:15 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Albany County Courthouse. Members also voted to set a public hearing on legislative additions and/or deletions to the budget for 7:15 p.m. Nov. 22 in the courthouse.

Under the Albany County Charter, the county executive must file an annual Tentative Budget with the clerk of the Legislature by Oct. 10, and a first public hearing shall be held no later than Oct. 30. A legislative budget report must be filed with the clerk by Nov. 20, and a second public hearing shall be held by Dec. 1.

20161007_115124Albany County Legislature to Review Executive’s 2017 Proposed Budget

ALBANY (Oct. 7) – The Albany County Legislature will meet in the coming weeks to inspect, and possibly revise, the 2017 county budget proposed Friday by county Executive Daniel P. McCoy.

McCoy presented a stable $652 million budget that does not increase the tax rate, holds the line on spending and includes a 1.38 percent increase in the county’s tax levy. The proposal falls well within the state-mandated tax cap. It also includes $250,000 for the Albany County Land Corp., bringing the county’s total commitment to the entity over four years to $1.75 million.

“On the surface, it looks like a very good budget,” legislature Chairman Sean Ward said Friday. “The cooperation between the legislature, the executive and our county employees is what keeps us on solid ground.”

In the coming days and weeks, the Albany County Legislature’s Democratic leadership will present the 2017 budget to its Audit and Finance Committee for review. All legislators will have an opportunity to attend the committee meetings and add input. The full legislature will meet Thursday, and is expected to vote on setting dates to accept public comment on the spending plan. The budget must be adopted by the legislature by mid-December.

“We’d like to thank the county executive and his staff for a job well done,” Majority Leader Frank Commisso said. “This budget was accomplished through a partnership with the county executive, as we in the legislature look all year for cost savings for the taxpayer. A thorough review of the budget by the legislative members will be forthcoming, but the fact that we’re at a flat budget is an accomplishment.”

Gary Domalewicz, chairman of the legislature’s Audit and Finance Committee, said committee members will meet with county department heads to go over every line in the budget.

Commisso said, “We’re looking forward to working with the county executive to complete a final budget over the next several weeks.”

Bill toughens pesticide notification law

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Legislator Gary Domalewicz (D-District 10)

Albany (Oct. 4) – A bill moving through the Albany County Legislature would strengthen the county’s notification requirements for residential lawn pesticide applications.

Sponsored by Democrat Gary Domalewicz of Albany, Local Law No. J would require retail outlets that sell general use pesticide products to provide or sell accompanying lawn signs so customers can post the signs where they apply the pest control.

Presently, commercial applicators use the signs, but there’s no place for residential property owners to acquire the necessary signage. Local Law J amends Local Law No. 1 for 2001 in that it forces retail establishments to not only display a sign warning of the environmental dangers of pesticides, but also make the lawn signs available to customers at the point of sale.

The legislature’s Law Committee last week voted to move the measure to the full legislature, which is expected on Oct. 13 to set a public hearing for the new local law on Oct. 25.

“What this amended local law does is require any place that sells pesticide to provide the signs for the consumer so that they can post them on their lawn,” Domalewicz said.

All commercial entities and property owners treating a yard area of more than 100 square feet must use the lawn markers. Applicators of pesticide products must post signs at least 12 inches above the ground. The signs must be at least four inches by five inches in size.

On the November Ballot

Albany County residents will decide whether to amend parts of the Albany County Charter when they go to the polls on Nov. 8.

The Albany County Legislature voted in August to put Local Law No. H on the county ballot. The bipartisan legislation would clarify language in the Albany County Charter. It would incorporate the county’s Probation Department and Board of Elections into the charter; extend the period in which the county executive may make an appointment to fill a department-head vacancy position to 90 days from 45 days, and the period in which the legislature may confirm the appointments to 60 days from 45 days; mandate a written designation of an order of succession for the offices of county executive, comptroller and sheriff; mandate that the county adopt an administrative code; and require public hearing notices be posted on the county website.

View the full text for Local Law No. H here.