Johnson: A second golden era

Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson spoke of a second golden era for the city in his State of the City address Sunday, Feb. 3.

That era, if Johnson's vision survives the tumultuous gantlet that has been city government the past few years, includes tax relief, fiscal responsibility, securing the city's share of video lottery coffers, land preservation, affordable housing, and developing a greater stake in the future of horse racing.

Johnson said his vision builds on past successes of the city that have made it a world-class destination, especially in the past 30 years, he said. However, despite those successes, the city has been carrying heavy baggage, such as partisan politics, a rising cost of living and high taxes.

"There are challenges facing our city that require innovative solutions; solutions that require us all to work together in a spirit of collaboration toward the common good," Johnson said.

The mayor proposed several new committees that will begin working on solutions to some of the city's ongoing challenges. Johnson's plan includes a tax relief committee and a capital construction committee to promote fiscal accountability in proposed capital improvements. In other areas, Johnson plans to revamp existing committees to take on open space preservation and to continue downtown revitalization and preservation. Johnson also outlined a plan to work closely with school districts to "control what can be controlled on school taxes."

The freshmen mayor also laid out a strategy to revisit a Saratoga County sales tax formula that the city's last administration withdrew from. Since the withdrawal from the plan, the city has seen less in city sales tax revenue.

Johnson also challenged Gov. Eliot Spitzer's proposed budget, which proposes to decrease the city's share of video lottery terminal revenue by $3.8 million in 2008 and half that amount in 2009. Under the plan, the city will see no revenue from VLTs beginning in 2010, even though the gaming facility is within city limits.

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