I am very excited about my decision to seek reelection for a fifth term as Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Finance and proud that my candidacy has been endorsed by the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee and the Saratoga County Independence Party. As we enter election season I’d like to provide a summary of my activities and successes since taking office in 2012 and mention some of what I hope to accomplish in 2020 and 2021.
Advocating Smart Budgets, Stable Taxes
As Commissioner of Finance I am the city’s Chief Fiscal Officer and Chief Budget Officer, so one of my key responsibilities is to propose our budgets and property tax rates. The 2013 – 2019 budgets I proposed were all adopted by the City Council and have enhanced essential city services with continued stability in property tax rates. Four of my seven annual budgets led to property tax rate decreases while maintaining or improving services. This has been achieved through my unceasing focus on accurate budgeting. As a result, the city’s reserves and fund balances are healthy and strong, and we’ve had a stellar AA+ bond rating since 2013.
Refinancing Saratoga Springs Debt to Save Taxpayers Money
I took advantage of the bond rating and low interest rates in 2014 and again in 2018 to refinance much of the city’s debt, saving taxpayers $3.6 million. Furthermore, our strong financial footing and my excellent working relationship with all of my colleagues on the City Council were key to our ability to manage through the complex issues forced on us by the August 2018 City Hall fire. I plan to continue my responsible stewardship of the city’s finances as long as I am in office, ensuring that our reserves and fund balances are healthy and that operating budgets continue to fund essential services while keeping property tax rates stable.
I assisted DPW as the Water and Sewer Funds repaid $1.8 million in loans from city taxpayers that were provided by prior administrations. For the first time in our history the Water and Sewer Funds have healthy fund balances, reducing the need for bonding – and associated debt maintenance costs – for DPW infrastructure projects. As the city’s Chief Fiscal Officer it is my duty and obligation to work with all Council members, regardless of party affiliation, to protect the city’s financial interests; I have always done so and will continue to if I am fortunate enough to be reelected.
Budgeting is not my only responsibility. As a member of the City Council I have led other worthwhile initiatives.
Spa Solar Park, Weibel Avenue Landfill
Opening Saratoga’s Spa Solar Park Yields Power and CO2 Offsets
Under my leadership the city placed the 2.5 megawatt Spa Solar Park on the Weibel Avenue Landfill. Since breaking ground in September 2017 this array of 7992 state of the art solar panels has generated 3.6 million kilowatt hours of electricity, providing 40% of the city’s energy needs while offsetting 1.3 million trees’ worth of CO2 emissions.
Convening Saratoga Springs Smart City Commission for Technology Advances
I created the Smart City Commission in February 2016 to set Saratoga Springs on a path to becoming a smarter city; we presented a roadmap to the City Council a few months later. The Smart City Commission consists of stakeholders from our school district, library, and hospital; Skidmore College and Empire State College; the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau; and several local technology companies. This year we are updating the roadmap and hosting a series of “Lunch and Learn” educational events for residents, business owners, and elected officials in Saratoga Springs and neighboring municipalities on Smart City-related topics. These events have been well received and are bringing positive attention to the city – this is something all city residents can be proud of. I plan to continue my Smart City activities well into the future.
Advancing Affordable Housing Projects in Saratoga Springs
In 2013 I led the effort to set aside two city-owned parcels for affordable housing projects with Habitat for Humanity and Saratoga Builder. Construction began in 2014, resulting in three new affordable homes in Saratoga Springs. We have also taken steps that will lead to state tax incentives for affordable housing projects on South Broadway and with the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority. My demonstrated commitment to affordable housing will continue as long as I am lucky enough to serve on the City Council.
Championing Efficiency and Community in Saratoga Springs Initiatives
My other successes while in office include a 2015 partnership with the SPA State Park to oversee the construction of a safe, fenced-in dog park at the intersection of Crescent and South Broadway; implementation of automated time and attendance for all departments at City Hall – adding efficiency and accuracy while reducing costs; a complete overhaul of the city website that now includes transparent budget materials (the Empire Center and Times Union said this is one of the three best websites in the capital region); adopting a mechanism for online payment of taxes and utilities; conducting a city-wide revenue study; and economic development initiatives with Universal Preservation Hall and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Budgeting for the Present, Planning for the Future
In summary, I have always tried to be an effective leader who collaborates with my colleagues on the City Council and with other community leaders to improve our quality of life while maintaining stable property tax rates and enhancing essential city services. I am a passionate advocate for the city and its future, and proud of what we have been able to achieve. I thank the voters for placing their trust in me and allowing me to serve this great city, and I humbly request your support in my bid for reelection so that I can continue to budget for the present while planning for the future, and ensure our city’s continued success.