October 6, 2010; Source: Times Union.com | We read this news from Schenectady, N.Y., about a plan to close the city’s budget deficit with both amusement and sadness. We are amused by the kind of thinking that went into devising the proposal that would require all building owners, including tax-exempt organizations, to pay a “curb” fee based on how much of their property fronts the city’s streets. The sadness is that things are so bad in some places that it’s come to this.

That latter sentiment is echoed by Michael Saccocio, executive director of the City Mission of Schenectady, a shelter that houses and feeds some 100 people a day. Said Saccocio, “These are really hard times, everyone is being stretched farther than they’ve ever been before.”

Of course, no nonprofit leader quoted in the Times Union article is welcoming the proposal, which is formally billed as a fee for “road services.” Ed August, executive director of Better Neighborhoods Inc., an affordable housing provider, told the newspaper he already is coping with a loss of $34,000 in state aid that forced him to cut back office hours. “Is it going to hurt me? Yes. It’s a tax, that’s what it is.”

Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton claims he borrowed the idea from the city of Rochester, where the community pays for snow plowing and street and sidewalk repair. Perhaps, in this case, opting to call it a “curb fee,” avoids the fear people might describe the rationale for the Schenectady fee as a “snow job.”—Bruce Trachtenberg