Johnstown city departments seek more fuel money in 2009

The Common Council and Mayor Sarah Slingerland reviewed budget requests from city departments Monday

The Common Council and Mayor Sarah Slingerland reviewed budget requests from city departments Monday, most showing major increases in expected fuel costs.

“The real killer in this budget is going to be fuel and heating costs,” Slingerland said.

City Engineer Chad Kortz requested $100,000 for diesel and gasoline for the city’s Department of Public Works, up from $58,000 requested for this year. Kortz said he requested the increase to prevent another year like 2008 when he was forced to cannibalize other parts of his budget to pay for an unexpected 50 percent jump in fuel costs that overran his original fuel budget. His total budget request for the Department of Public Works was $2.4 million, up about 4.3 percent.

“I don’t know how conservative [my fuel budget request is] because I don’t know what the gas prices are going to do, but I think that’s a reasonable number,” he said.

The requested heating budgets for the Johnstown Public Library and the Johnstown Senior Center were both higher than last year, the library’s dramatically so.

The library is looking for total budget of $271,656 from the city, up 8 percent from this year, said Johnstown Public Library Director Barbara Germain. Germain said one of the major cost drivers in her budget is a 50 percent increase in heating costs. The library’s $369,331 budget will also come from the town of Johnstown, the town of Caroga, grants and fundraisers.

Johnstown Senior Center Executive Director Michelle Jones requested $94,950, up about 3 percent from this year. She said the center’s heating costs are only up about 4 percent because the center has solar panels that reduce fuel costs.

The Johnstown Police Department requested $44,000 for fuel, up from $40,000 last year. Johnstown Police Chief Gregory Horning said his department has not overrun its fuel budget this year despite the increase in fuel prices.

“The way my fuel usage now is $44,000 should be enough and a little bit extra. I tried to put a realistic number on that, but nobody knows where fuel costs are going to go. I could have put $60,000 or $70,000 on there [but] for what? We’ve come in under budget every year I’ve been chief,” Horning said.

The total budget request for the Police Department was $1.7 million, no significant increase from last year.

The Johnstown Fire Department’s budget request was also about flat from last year at $1.5 million. Chief Bruce Heberer spent most of his budget presentation arguing in favor of the city buying a new ladder truck at an estimated cost of $850,000. The truck would be the biggest single item in the 2009 budget process if it were counted as an expenditure next year, but it won’t be. City officials said if the Common Council approves the request the city won’t begin paying for any new truck until after it is purchased, a process that will take at least one year. Slingerland said she expects the Common Council will vote on a resolution authorizing the bidding process for the new truck at its next meeting.

City Treasurer Michael Gifford said he and Slingerland will have tentative numbers for the entire city budget next week. He said the city’s sales tax revenues look to be flat year-over-year at about $3 million. The other two major revenue components are state aid, which will likely go down although that’s not yet known, and property taxes.

Last year, the Common Council approved a $9.3 million budget that carried a 1.7 percent cut in the property tax rate.

The rate dropped 27 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, from $15.80 to $15.53 per $1,000.

Slingerland said events in the larger economy will impact Johnstown’s budget, especially in the area of sales tax. She said every $100,000 drop in sales tax revenue could equate to a 50-cent increase in the property tax rate.

Gifford said the property tax rolls will benefit from 25 percent of the assessed value of the Wal-Mart Distribution Center coming online this year as well as the Fage USA yogurt plant.

Categories: Schenectady County

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