By Aedan Perry | November 13, 2023
A map of the Guilderland/Albany border on the UAlbany campus
Photo Credit: Office of Campus Planning
On Nov. 2 the Guilderland town board passed their budget for 2024, and while Albany's budget is still a proposal, both have an impact on the University at Albany community. UAlbany sits on a plot of land dissected between both Guilderland and Albany, meaning some parts of campus’s budget comes from Guilderland and some from Albany.
The Albany Budget Proposal would raise the city budget by about $8 million through a slight increase in residential property tax, although this increase won’t affect UAlbany, which is built on state land.
“Property taxes do not impact tuition or fees. Land owned by New York State is exempt from property taxes,” said UAlbany Director of Communications and Spokesperson Jordan Carleo-Evangelist.
Guilderland is also seeing a slight increase in its property tax levy, although this will not affect UAlbany for the same reason as the Albany tax increase. Of course, both of these will still affect people who live off campus.
Major items in the Albany budget include the building of a pool in Lincoln Park, major investments in speedbumps and the repaving of many local roads.
Major items in the Guilderland budget include continued investment in local parks, a purchase of a new advanced life support unit for the EMS, and the construction of a new fire tower to replace their previous one, which “is almost fifty years old… and really can't be used,” according to Town Supervisor Peter Barber.
While UAlbany's budget is provided by the state, and not by either municipality, there are nonetheless some things the campus does receive, mainly in the form of services.
“Like any other property, both public and private, the city budget provides funding for various services… UAlbany does have its own police and ambulance services, but of course we do sometimes provide support, and we also patrol the surrounding neighborhoods as well as around Alumni Quad,” Mayor Sheehan's Chief of Staff David Galin said.
Barber shared similar sentiments, saying that “The Town ambulance provides backup to UAlbany's Five Quad BLS ambulance… We also work closely with UAlbany Police on law enforcement issues, and allow UAlbany to use the Town’s sewer system for part of its campus.”
The split in the UAlbany between the city of Albany and the town of Guilderland is a result of how the city was developed. As Albany expanded, it was not able to acquire all the land that would one day become the Uptown Campus. The sharp angle in the municipal border northeast of Indigenous Quad is where two different land acquisitions run into each other.
A map of the city of Albany
Image Credit: Library of Congress
Notably, most of the buildings that are in Guilderland today are served by the McKownville Fire Department (which is one of several Fire Departments in Guilderland), rather than the Albany Fire Department, and instructions to call one or the other are marked out in the evacuation plans for each building.
The bulk of UAlbany's funding comes from the State, however, although there are taxes paid to the city and county that provide a portion of its revenue. According to the State Comptroller's office website, 40% of the county sales tax (itself 4%) is redistributed to municipalities based on their respective populations.
The City of Albany, with a population of nearly 100,000 people, is home to around 32% of the county’s population of 314,838 in the 2020 census. It therefore receives about 32% of the sales tax set aside for municipalities within Albany county. UAlbany’s population accounts for a significant portion of Albany’s population.
Historically, this has led to some controversy. After both the 1990 and 2000 censuses, the more than 1,000 students in Indigenous Quad (known as Indian Quad at the time) were initially assigned to Albany by the Census, before Guilderland successfully managed to have them recognized as residents of Guilderland, as reported by the Times Union in 2002.
That December, it was additionally reported that the Albany Mayor's office had sent a request to Guilderland for the return of $37,600 spent by their Albany Fire and EMS services on the Guilderland portion of the Uptown Campus since 1999.
Guilderland replied with a request for Albany to return $363,000 in lost sales tax revenue caused from Indigenous Quad students being incorrectly assigned to Albany for purposes of sales tax allocation.
This was also the reason why the different portions of UAlbany are today served by different fire departments; as the McKownville Fire Department started serving UAlbany in 2003, after Albany determined that it not be responsible for UAlbany buildings outside of the city limits.
The two departments do differ in one other respect: Albany's fire department is professional, with a starting salary of $49,605 planned to take effect in 2024, a raise of around $2,000 dollars from 2023.
Guilderland's various fire departments (which include the McKownville Fire Department that services UAlbany) are entirely volunteer. This doesn’t mean there aren’t some expenses though, according to Barber, “The Town supports the firefighters with fire inspectors and hosting the fire training classroom and, next year, the new fire training tower.” However, a volunteer force does save the town money overall.
The Uptown Campus may legally be divided in two, but residents are able to enjoy either community.