10:58am

Tue March 8, 2011
Morning news round-up: ch ch ch changes

Making money in Albany, declining population upstate

Albany has refinanced $13 million in debt, for a savings of about a million dollars, reports Jordan Carleo-Evantelist at the Times Union:

[Albany treasurer Kathy] Sheehan said the rest of the savings will come over the life of the bonds, which expire in 2025. They were initially issued in 1997 and 2001 for a number of different city projects.

Sheehan said the total amount of the savings was $1,136,430.

The city has long touted its AA bond rating, the highest of any city statewide outside of New York City. Sheehan said Standard & Poor's reaffirmed that rating.

"In order for Albany to maintain a strong rating, we must continue to push for our fair share of state aid and payments in lieu of taxes for the Empire State Plaza and the Harriman Campus," Sheehan said in a statement. "My office is committed to working hard to identify savings and provide better management tools for the city, but the state must address the inequity that results in Albany receiving millions of dollars less than comparable cities in the state."

A sales tax revenue sharing agreement in Broome County could be shorting towns and villages by $800,000, reports Steve Reilly at the Press & Sun-Bulletin:

"You're playing with revenue that towns, villages and the city count on," [Town of Union supervisor John] Bernardo said.

In 2010, the county took in about $66 million in sales tax revenue. The municipalities divvied up $39.6 million based on their population.

County projections indicate the sales tax revenue will grow to $75 million in 2011, partially driven by a temporary cessation of sales tax exemptions on clothing and footwear.

Population
Broome County's population dropped by 4 percent in the last decade, reports Nick Reisman at Gannett.  But it's not alone - 34 counties upstate had negative population growth according to the latest batch of Census estimates:

Saratoga County, which enjoys a strong tourism economy and is the site of an expanding computer chip manufacturing plant, grew its population by 9.6 percent since 2000.

And Tompkins County, which includes Cornell University in Ithaca, grew by 6.25 percent, according to the population estimates.

But the lack of population growth in upstate counties, especially in western New York and the Adirondack Park, is stark.

"The struggling areas of upstate continue to decline, unfortunately," [Robert] Ward [of the Rockefeller Institute of Government] said.

Eric Jaffe at Infrastructurist has a round-up of "defenses of the city" in the wake of Census data that shows that urban cores grew much less than suburban regions in the last decade.

New cities
With a little help from Streetsblog, Rust Wire asks if "generational turnover" is necessary to revitalize our nation's cities.  That is, do we need to wait until the folks who remember the downtown that was (large department stores, factories) retire, in order to make way for younger people, whose visions of cities don't include the good old days.

And while we're talking about cities coming back from the brink, Edward Glaeser has a fascinating blog post at Economix about why Seattle won and Detroit lost.  Here's a snippet:

As Boeing scaled back its Seattle employment, the city floundered. By 1971, a much-discussed billboard read “Would the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights?”

But there was a crucial difference between Seattle and Detroit. Unlike Ford and General Motors, Boeing employed highly educated workers. Almost since its inception, Seattle has been committed to education and has benefited from the University of Washington, which is based there. Skills are the source of Seattle’s strength.

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