Budget plan hikes taxes, lowers fees

Members of the city’s budget committee are starting out with a spending plan that raises property ta
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Members of the city’s budget committee are starting out with a spending plan that raises property taxes by 2.41 percent and decreases user fees, and also uses more than $900,000 from the city’s surplus.

Based on the needs of various city department heads, Controller Heather Reynicke filed a tentative budget with the City Clerk’s office late Tuesday.

The $23.5 million budget calls for offsetting taxes with the use of $910,937 of the city’s surplus or fund balance, $689,670 of which would come from the $1 million city officials saved in last year’s budget.

The preliminary budget would collect about $4.6 million from city taxpayers, setting the rate at $14.23 per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase of 34 cents over last year’s rates.

City residents could see a decrease in water and sewer user fees. The tentative budget calls for $313.77 in water fees, a decrease of $4.61 over last year’s budget, and sewer fees of $253.73, a decrease of $7.25 over last year. Residents could see an increase of $5.49 for sanitation fees to $205.36.

The $3.68 million sewer budget is expected to break even, while the $3.6 million water budget uses $112,823 from its fund balance and the $1.88 million sanitation budget uses $108,444 from the surplus.

The city self-imposes a 1 percent tax cap on the total assessed value of the city’s properties, which is $325.8 million this year, and a 3 percent cap on a tax increase over last year’s budget.

The largest chunk of the tentative $13.2 million general budget is $5.8 million for public safety, including the police and fire departments, codes enforcement, building inspection and animal control.

City Hall employees and employee benefits also make up a good portion of the general budget, comprising about $5 million.

Recreation and culture, including the Recreation Department, the Amsterdam Free Library and the Walter Elwood Museum, take up nearly $365,779. The Amsterdam Free Library has requested $90,000 this year, which is $17,000 more than it received in the general budget last year.

Library Director Jane Getty said the increase is because Mayor Joseph Emanuele III donated half of his salary to the library because he was a part-time mayor.

Reynicke said the Budget Committee, including the five aldermen, Mayor Ann Thane and herself, will begin to discuss the tentative budget at the beginning of April.

Aldermen received the budget late Tuesday. Alderman Daniel Roth, R-2nd Ward, said Wednesday that he hadn’t looked at the budget closely enough to comment about it.

Alderman William Wills, D-4th Ward, said Wednesday that he was concerned about the amount of money taken out of the city’s fund balance to offset a tax increase.

“My first observations are we are taking almost $690,000 of the unappropriated fund balance to offset not the 3 percent cap but the 1 percent cap,” he said. “That’s more significant because we are at our taxable limit. We can’t go any higher.”

Wills said if the city doesn’t do more to create significant revenues, it will be bad for budgets soon.

Reynicke said the city is in contract negotiations with six of the city’s eight unions, which could affect this year’s city budget.

Categories: Schenectady County

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