Saratoga County

Tax hike cut in Saratoga Springs budget draft

A new draft of the 2009 city budget presented on Monday restores 17 positions in the city Department

A new draft of the 2009 city budget presented on Monday restores 17 positions in the city Department of Public Works, adds two new police officers, and drops the projected 2009 city tax rate increase to 2.7 percent.

City Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins called the new $38.5 million spending plan a “compromise budget” in which city department heads looked for ways to reduce costs and increase revenues next year in light of the difficult economic conditions.

The new budget is $702,268 larger than the 2008 city budget and about $400,000 larger than the first draft of the 2009 budget.

Two unexpected developments helped — a $526,000 “energy to ice” grant from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and lower than expected liability insurance premiums, Ivins said.

The city’s initial 2009 budget cut 17 mainly part-time jobs with the city DPW, overtime money for the police department, and new police officer positions.

With the additional revenues and reconfigured budget, Ivins said, the city tax rate increase for 2009 could be dropped from the earlier 3.8 percent to 2.7 percent. A typical home in the city valued at $200,000 would pay approximately $30 more in city taxes in 2009 if the City Council ends up approving the compromise budget Later this month, Ivins said.

Frank Barone, a part-time DPW worker, thanked the council for retaining his part-time job with the city during the public hearing portion of Monday’s meeting in City Hall.

“Overall it’s a good compromise,” Ivins said about the new spending plan. “I’m not totally comfortable but I can live with it.”

Ivins said he included in the budget only $450,000 of the $526,000 state money awarded to the city for using methane gas from the city’s former Weibel Avenue landfill to run ice-making compressors in the city’s two indoor ice rinks on Weibel Avenue.

He said he will put $100,000 of the $450,000 into a contingency fund, or budget surplus fund, to save it for a “rainy day.” He said he is concerned that the city budget is being balanced by a one-time revenue item such as the state DEC grant.

To offset this, the budget includes two new city police officer positions. Ivins said these positions will save the city police overtime costs in future years, when the city doesn’t have the state energy grant to help the budget.

Ivins said no spending for the proposed new indoor recreation facility in the city’s Southside Recreation Park is included in the 2009 budget. This spending, if fully approved by the council, would appear in the 2010 budget.

Public Safety Commissioner Ronald Kim told the council he believes he can raise approximately $100,000 in new, public safety-related revenues if the council goes along with four new proposals. These proposals include charging for excessive false fire alarms, charging for accident reports and accident photos, a city surcharge on towing illegally parked vehicles and a property maintenance fee.

“All these would require council action,” Kim said.

Accounts Commissioner John Franck echoed Ivins’ concern that money from revenue generated by video lottery terminals at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway that the state has shared with the city the past two years may not be available in the future. Franck said he thinks this VLT revenue of several million dollars per year could end within the next year or two.

Public Works Commissioner Anthony Scirocco said city officials need to lobby new state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos regarding this revenue.

Ivins stressed that the budget he unveiled Monday is not the final budget. He said the City Council will hold a budget workshop on Nov. 10 and a public hearing on the budget Nov. 18.

The council will also hold a budget workshop Nov. 24 after requests for proposals come back to the city on a proposed public-private public safety building in what is now a city parking lot on High Rock Avenue.

Categories: Schenectady County

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