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Budgeting 101 in the Spa City

Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan points out details about budgeting for the city at a recent presentation.

Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Finance Michele Madigan points out details about budgeting for the city at a recent presentation. Photo by Julie Cushine-Rigg.

— “The remaining 18.1 percent of the revenues are made up of other sources,” she said.

Other sources of income include utilities tax, franchise tax, NYRA admissions tax, parking ticket revenue and building permits, among others. NYRA admissions tax for example, is expected to bring in $435,000 for this year. And franchise taxes (from things like cable television) will total around$459,000.

Combined, the other sources account for a little more than $6million of the total budget.

So where does all that money go?

“At the city, we’re accustomed to thinking of expenses in terms of departments (mayor’s office or recreation). We understand that well but I’m not sure that’s as helpful as it can be to the public. The public tends to think of things in terms of categories like how much we spend on wages, how much do we spend on benefits,” said Bachner.

The Public Safety Department accounts for 56 percent of the budget and Public Works accounts for 24 percent. Other notables include the Finance and Recreation Departments, each at 6 percent, and the Mayor’s department at 5 percent.

Mandatory spending, such as wages, makes up 86.3 percent of the budget, or just over $32 million.

In Madigan’s Financing Department, the second highest expenditure has come to be the data processing network.

“The portal to city government for citizens has really become technology (Internet). It’s busted transparency wide-open and made the government a lot more accessible but it does require a fine tuned IT department,” Bachner said.

Within just the last week, a transparency link has been incorporated into the city’s website. Under that tab, visitors can look at any expense, under any department within the city’s government. According to Madigan, more content is being added. Data is available back to 2008 at the moment.

“I had run on transparency, and at the very least made the Finance Department’s information available to citizens in a way that they could understand it. It’s interactive visual data on the budgets. I’ve gotten quite a bit of positive feedback about this,” said Madigan.

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