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Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations (CANA)
Minutes for meeting of November 1, 2000

1.    Introductions
2.    Minutes
3.    Correspondence/Announcements
    Vacant building ordinance information distributed
    CDTA magnets, celebrating 30 years, were distributed
    Colin McKnight thanked everyone who helped plant daffodils in Lincoln Park.
    Letter from Mayor regarding gang problems inviting neighborhoods to participate in a half-day meeting. Building Safe Communities: A Strategy for Albany 11/14/00 AM. First of several meetings to strategize and develop recommendations. 434-5723.
    Recommendation to invite Lori Harris, of Albany's Planning Dept., to a future CANA meeting. New focus on neighborhood planning and improvement.
    Circulated clippings and other announcements.
    Albany Home Store: David Riker (434-5237) looking to develop working relationship with neighborhood associations and would like to meet with CANA reps.
4.    Committee Reports
    a. SUNY University/Community Relations
    Next meeting 11/8 6-6:45. Committee will discuss the 10th Anniversary Celebration that will include awards to neighborhood/local community, business, city level and state level, recognition certificates to all "cooperating taverns" who are part of the committee's Tavern Owner Advertisement Agreement. Reception before/after formal part of evening.
    b. Lincoln Park Pool
    Meeting with City. No further update.
    c. CEQL- report will be given at Neighborhoods Work! Conference
    d. Neighborhoods Work!
    Brochure has been distributed - please pre-register. Need volunteer recorders, moderators, set-up and breakdown crew.
    e. School District News
    f. Cable Access
    Meeting 11/14 at Albany Public Library at 1:30.
    g. Other
    Christmas in April
    Lorraine Charboneau, President of the Board, described Christmas in April, local entity that is part of a nationwide organization. Volunteers from the community rehabilitate the houses of low-income homeowners, particularly the elderly and people with disabilities. They would love increased participation in neighborhoods within the city of Albany. They need:  a; qualified applicants and b; volunteers to work on homes in their own neighborhood, or elsewhere. Work is light medium or heavy and they focus on the City of Albany and rural towns.  Deadline is 11/10 but they will consider applicants after that date.  To nominate a neighbor who could benefit from this program, to volunteer, of for more information, call 447-5067.
   
    Police update.
    Can we close the alley between the library and armory or light it better? ??
    Are members of the Robinson Family (alleged dealers) in the South End too? Apparently, yes, they are in the South End, too.
5.    Guest Speaker: Nancy Burton, Comptroller, on the City's Budget
Nancy reviewed the following aspects of the budget:
1.    Balance
2.    Major Changes
3.    Cash Liquidity Fund Balance
4.    Capital Budget
5.    Looming problems with Health Insurance Costs.

Nancy provides the Common Council with budget reports every month. The Mayor develops the budget with input from department heads. The budget is almost $107 million. There are no significant cuts this year because additional state money and additional landfill revenues enabled the City to maintain spending levels without increasing property taxes.

A summary of significant aspects of the budget was distributed and reviewed by Nancy. The following questions were then raised. Council Finance Committee members Shawn Morris and Richard Conti were also there to answer questions and to hear our comments.
Q: The mayor is spending most of the windfall. Is this wise?
A: Not for the cash poor times of year.  There should be a 3-5% fund balance, according to the bond raters. But they were satisfied with what's committed to the fund balance ($600,000). Take incremental steps to get to the 3-5% fund balance.
Q: How does Albany's budget process compare to other cities?
A: About the same. The process is less cooperative.  Don't hear from departments; sometimes have to piece together information.
Q: Any potential loss of funds from census?
A: Community Development Grants might be impacted and the administrative fees we can charge.
Q: Taxes taken in (property) how do they compare to last year?  Commercial or residential?
A: Assessed value down $46M in commercial and non-homestead. Considering resolution of slight decrease in homestead and 3% commercial increase.
Q: Landfill is almost 10% of budget. Revenues could disappear if Albany Pine Bush continues litigation against the City.
A: Impact would be far larger than $10M. Another reason to maintain the reserve.
Q: Are the adjusted personnel positions really 35?
A: Yes.
Q: Revenue - fines and fees - how do we compare with other cities (permit fees, abandoned building fees, etc.)?
A: Collection process not particularly sophisticated. Most cities use outside service to collect. Not necessarily staffed well enough to know who's paying building fees.
Q: Is Common Council going to do anything?
A: Invited treasurer - have not seen yet. Would like to have an actual number re uncollected fines. Will look at credit agency information.
Q: Reduction of 14 in justice department grant position. Why?
A: Grant ran out and those moved into budget. Civilian grant to put officers on street.

Q: Retirement benefits for state employees will get cost of living increase. Impact City?
A: Good state package so city contribution has been reduced significantly.

The budget is solid in what it does but needs to expand in depth of Economic Development and special projects.  Capital Budget is $5.7M. Portion already in budget. Distinct improvement from past -- good to see what equipment purchased. Less good at economic development and special projects (Palace Theatre and Albany Institute of History and Art). Hard to tell actual dollar amount.

Common council approved $1.9M (98), $11.9M (99), $26.6M (00)
Rarely captures what issued in debt for any fiscal year. Every project has cash impact.

The City went through the rating process. Standards and Poors did not raise the rating and kept their same concerns.  Fitch did an extensive analysis of default rates. Their organizational assumption is that municipalities default less than any other. Raised the rating.  Risk of default is lower.  Total debt outstanding right now is $72M.

Water department consistently overspends in personnel services.

Health insurance is an ever-increasing expense as the baby boomer generation retires.  Need to look at different ways of handling this. The city pays over $1 M per month in health insurance. Health insurance increase costs exceeds rate of inflation.

Submitted by Sandra Thomas & Marggie Skinner
Attendance 11/01/00

Jim Lyons, MEL                    Dan Egan, PLYM
Peter Yezzi, HPNA                G. Mowbray, HPNA
Howie Stoller, MEL                Emily L. Grisom, SHNA
Mimi Mounteer MANG                Cynthia Galivan, MANG
Henry M. Madej, PHNA                Thomas Gebhardt, University at Albany
Margo Janack CDTA                Harold Rubin, CSQ
Lt. Steve Stella, APD                Mary Connair, DANA
Cathy O'Neill, DANA                Holly Katz, MANS
Robert Batson, Whitehall                Mike Kernan, MEL
Betsy Shearer, PSNA                Daniel W. VanRiper, LPNA
Shawn Morris, DANA Council            Gerard Marino, ST. Rose
Nancy Burton, PHNA, Guest            Gene Solan, PHNA
Tim Hoff, HELD                    Richard Conti, Council
Lorraine Charboneau, Christmas in April        Tom Murname, Capitalvoice.com
Terence Thornberry, WPNA            Clare Yates, CSQ
Barry Walston, guest                Tom McPheeters, MANS