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NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo board approves $5 million grant to city of Albany to stabilize budget as redevelopment advances for Harriman Office Campus and rejected downtown convention center site.
NYSNYS News
NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo board approves $5 million grant to city of Albany to stabilize budget as redevelopment advances for Harriman Office Campus and rejected downtown convention center site.

By Kyle Hughes
NYSNYS News


ALBANY, N.Y. (February 24) A state board approved $5 million in grants Tuesday to help stabilize the city of Albany's finances and pay for computer upgrades that could help other local governments become more financially stable and efficient.

Most of the money is aimed at tiding the city budget over as two big new economic development projects get underway: the conversion of the Harriman State Office Campus to private development and the prospect of commercial building on a barren downtown site once earmarked for a convention center.

The grants voted on by the Financial Restructuring Board for Local Governments included $3.9 million to help stabilize Albany's 2015 budget and $1.1 million "to pursue advancements in information technology that will improve efficiency for the city, that could be expanded to its neighboring governments, and that could be used a models for local governments statewide."

The board also approved a grant of $250,000 to stabilize the 2015 budget of the city of Jamestown, another financially distressed upstate municipality.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the board two years ago to help ease the decline of municipalities that have been struggling for decades as jobs and productive residents have disappeared at the same time that fixed costs and capital project needs have grown sharply.

Tuesday's meetings also saw presentations of improvements under way in Rochester, as well as requests for new reviews for Utica, Elmira, Lockport and the villages of Owego and Hoosick Falls. All are suffering from varying degrees of financial problems, with Hoosick Falls struggling with a high tax rate and sewer and water debt.

The review of Albany noted that the grants were tied to the city's improving fortunes.

"The State will soon be making a sector of the Harriman Campus available for private development," the board said in its formal presentation. "When fully developed, the City could realize new, substantial additional annual revenue."

"The State has issued an RFP seeking a mixed-use commercial development on downtown land no longer needed for the convention center that will create job opportunities and greatly expand the tax base for the City."

The report on Albany also said that many city government operations remain "aged, stand-alone, paper-based and labor intensive," and the $1.1 million grant will help to modernize them.

The report said the city should look at savings by converting streetlights to LED lighting, and investigate shared services with other municipalities for "IT (computers), tax bill printing, dispatch, and animal control."

Money could also be saved in unionized workforce reforms. "If the City could employ health insurance practices that the State achieved with its unions in the most recent round of collective bargaining, there is potential for millions of dollars in annual savings for the City."

Plus, "the City would likely qualify as an eligible municipality under the reforms to binding arbitration that were adopted in 2013," the board said.

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