Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson outlines his vision for the New Year in his State of the City Address. Our Matt Hunter has more on what was discussed and where Saratoga Springs could be going in 2013.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – While he didn't shy away from addressing challenges from the past year or current one, Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson painted a mostly positive image in his sixth State of the City Address.
"Despite the financial uncertainty still facing our nation and our state, the state of our city remains relatively strong," said the mayor in the early stages of his hour long address.
Citing a 5.5 percent gain sales tax receipts, a 35 percent boost in tourism revenue, a 20 percent rise in homes sold, a strong summer at Saratoga Race Course and no rise in property taxes, the mayor told a City Center crowd of more than 200 that the Spa City is in a good position to maintain its growth. However, he cautioned that the state's three year old property tax cap and a lack of pension reform could stand in the way of progress.
"We were up $1. -million in one year alone with our contribution to the state pension system,” Johnson said following his speech. “That is not sustainable."
"It is vital the state tackle the issue of mandate relief now,” said Assemblyman Tony Jordan, who now represents Saratoga Springs after district lines were redrawn. “If we don't, we're going leave the taxpayers and all citizens faced with a difficult choice through their local governments."
Looking back on 2012, the mayor applauded voters' second defeat in six years of a plan to overhaul the city's current form of government. Despite opposing those changes, the mayor says he'll appoint a committee to look at charter reform, in particular, the way the city's budget is handled.
"He did mention quite a few of the successes that we had this year, but I do take strong issue with his issues with the budgeting issues of the City of Saratoga Springs," said Michele Madigan, the city’s finance commissioner.
As expected, the mayor reaffirmed his support for bringing a casino to Saratoga, should New York legislators and taxpayers vote to legalize casino gambling later this year. It's his belief, shared by the other four city council members, that building one elsewhere but nearby would drastically impact the local tourism and thoroughbred industries.
"Anything that would serve to threaten the survival of horse racing cannot be tolerated," Johnson said.