The City Council approved the 2008 budget by a vote of 3-1 Wednesday night, authorizing a 15 percent increase in water rates but leaving property and sewer taxes unchanged.
The $4.7 million budget spends approximately $250,000 more than the 2007 budget. It keeps property taxes steady at $12.07 per $1,000 of assessed value, the first time since 2003 that property taxes weren’t increased.
City officials estimated that the 15 percent increase in water rates will cost the average homeowner $27 more per year. The increase was necessary because the water system is not yet financially self-sufficient, according to officials.
To keep property taxes unchanged, the city will spend almost $600,000 of its surplus, leaving an estimated surplus in 2008 of $1 million.
Finance Commissioner Sal Izzo said the city has maintained a budget surplus of about $1 million over the last several years as a common practice so it would have money in case of any large unexpected problems.
“I’m relieved that it’s passed and finished. We spent a lot of time with it,” Izzo said. “It went well.”
Izzo added that he doesn’t anticipate having to impose a large property tax increase in 2009 to make up for not increasing taxes this year because he said the city’s finances are in good shape.
The council held a public hearing prior to voting on the budget. Several residents were concerned about increased spending in the finance department.
The department’s budget is 44 percent higher than it was in 2007, an increase of more than $20,000 from last year.
Izzo said that the increase was necessary to clean up city accounting records. That budget includes consulting fees for a private accountant as well as the promotion of a part-time position to full time.
Izzo’s salary remained unchanged at just over $8,000.
“I believe the additional amount of money was warranted,” Izzo said. “You will see it this year but you probably won’t see it next year.”
New Accounts Commissioner Mark Seber voted against the budget, as well as all of the other resolutions approved on Wednesday, because he did not get a copy of the agenda two days before the meeting.
An organizational resolution passed at the meeting states that no measures will be introduced unless all council members get two days’ notice.
Although he voted against the budget in principle, Seber said he thought it was a fairly sound budget.
“It’s not a bad budget,” he said. “I think the people in the city will be happy with the zero increase in the property tax levy.”
The agendas are prepared by Mayor Anthony Sylvester’s secretary, Judy DiVirgilio.
According to DiVirgilio, she often doesn’t receive the resolutions from the commissioners until the day of the meeting.
Seber said he didn’t blame anyone for the delay in receiving the agenda, and Public Works Commissioner Jo-Ann Reilly said she hoped agendas would be available earlier in the future. Sylvester was ill and absent from Wednesday’s meeting.
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