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Troy city council members question budget

Troy city council members question budget

TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Some city council members in Troy expressed concerns over the accuracy and transparency of the city’s finances. They said the first quarter financial report was late and answers to their questions were incomplete. 

The city comptroller has one month after the quarter ends to gather information and produce the quarterly financial report, according to Troy city code.

That means the first quarter report was due May 1, but the city council members did not receive the report until June 20 – they said just minutes before the meeting.

“Well it was frustrating when you receive a report just moments before, it was already a month late to begin with,” said Troy City Council President Sue Steele. “And when you just received it moments before it was to be discussed it is frustrating there is no doubt about it.”

That feeling of frustration was the foundation of the heated finance meeting that took place on Thursday. Steele said she sent an email out that requested the first quarter report be presented in July, so the council had time to review the 30 page report and formulate questions. 

However, some members of the council said they had adequate time to review the information and wanted to move forward with the presentation. 

“It limited our questions but even the questions we did have were not getting adequate answers. And it caused considerable tension in the meeting,” said Steele.

It became contentious, so much so, it caused Comptroller Dylan Spring to walk out. The exchange that prompted Spring to leave started after new council member Katie Spain-McLaren questioned accounts that went into the negative, adding, “I’m new to this..”

To which Steele responded, “So is he.” Spring responded, “You don’t have to keep stabbing me, Council President.” Troy City Council Member Ryan Brosnan said he does not have concerns about the budget but was concerned with the exchange in the meeting.

“We’re all new, so I understand there were some comments made during the meeting that were colorful. I don't think politics is the time for listening to the Q1 report,” said Brosnan.

Steele clarified her intent. She said the comment was to make it clear that the council person was not the only new person at the meeting.

“There were a lot of new faces and that we need to be patient with each other and be understanding that there are no foolish questions when we’re new. It’s okay. It’s okay to ask questions. So if anything the comment was totally misinterpreted,” said Steele.

On Tuesday, Troy Mayor Carmella Mantello issued a statement that read in part: “.. the city comptroller presented the vast majority of our first-quarter report before being verbally attacked by Council President Steele...We remain in good financial standing, with permanent salaries and overtime considerably decreasing.”

Brosnan echoed Mantello, adding, “We have money in all the accounts to pay everything. We’re going to have to move some stuff around, I’m sure, to completely balance the budget in the future. The city has money. That’s kind of the biggest concern when you’re looking at a report.”

Mantello said the city is available to answer any questions the council may have. City Council Member Aaron Vera said a lot remains unclear, specifically McLaren’s initial question that sparked the walk out. She asked how the city was paying insurance when funds appeared to be exhausted. 

“We were unable to get answers as to whether or not that was actually overspent or if things were misclassified. And those are the types of questions we hope to get answers to in the near future,” said Vera. “If the council has authorized spending for a purpose, yeah we have concerns if additional monies are being spent without council authorization.”

Council members I spoke with say their biggest concern is oversight. Steele issued a statement Wednesday morning that laid out concerns around an emergency declaration that is still in effect. That declaration was issued in January and allowed the city to pay an outside consultant to assist the comptroller with the budget, who came on board in February. 

Steele said they were surprised to find out Thursday the emergency declaration was still in effect, six months later.

“There’s certainly been enough time to come to the council and authorize additional spending without the need to use that mechanism,” said Vera.

“I don't think anyone is panicking and I don't want to imply that in anyway. I think what we are asking for is transparency and full disclosure and we have every right for that. we as the council offer an important check and balance to the administration,” said Steele.

Council members I talked to – from both sides of the aisle – said they hope they get the opportunity to ask more questions at the next finance meeting on July 11, so they can have a clear picture before going into budget season.

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