Saratoga County

City budget slashes VLT revenues

City Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins presented a revised 2009 city budget plan on Monday that


City Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins presented a revised 2009 city budget plan on Monday that cuts anticipated revenue from VLTs in half and increases the 2009 tax increase from 2.7 percent to 3.5 percent.

The City Council didn’t vote on the amended budget because council members said they needed more time to study the new figures. The council will meet again at 6:30 tonight in City Hall and could adopt the 2009 budget then.

“I need to go over it,” said Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco. “I need to take a close look at it.”

Ivins reduced the revenue the city expects to receive from the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway racino by $1.89 million.

The state budget office told the city earlier this month it was cutting in half the $3.7 million the city anticipated getting from the state Lottery-controlled video slot machines in 2009 because of the state’s mounting multi-billion dollar deficit.

To balance the removal of such a large chunk of anticipated revenue, Ivins would use $800,000 of the city’s $4 million budget surplus to help reduce the tax increase in 2009.

The amended 2009 spending plan is now $37.3 million as compared to the 2008 budget of $38.8 million. However, the tax levy in the proposed 2009 budget is somewhat larger than in this year’s budget.

If the council approves Ivins’ budget, it would mean the city tax rate would increase from this year’s $5.36 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $5.55 per $1,000.

The owner of a home in the city valued at $150,000 would pay an estimated $28.50 more in taxes comparing 2008 and 2009, according to Ivins’ figures.

The owner of a home valued at $300,000 would pay an additional $57 in city taxes next year, Ivins said.

Ivins said nobody wants to see city taxes increase 8.6 percent like they did this year.

Accounts Commissioner John Franck advocated using more of the city’s surplus revenue to reduce the 2009 tax increase to zero.

Franck noted the federal government was bailing out the banks and possibly other businesses. He suggested the City Council use the city surplus money to bail out city taxpayers.

Ivins said to do this he would have to take another $500,000 from the reserve funds and said he would not.

As another money saving measure, Ivins said some positions in some departments not currently filled would not be filled next year.

The finance commissioner also recommended a one-year freeze on all salaries of appointed city employees. In addition, Ivins said he advocated a one-year hiring freeze on all full-time positions.

Ivins said there would be some layoffs required in part-time workers in the city Department of Public Works but not as many part-timers as would have lost their jobs under Ivins’ first budget draft released in October.

Scirocco said he could not consider adopting the amended budget, which the council members received at the start of Monday’s meeting. The rest of the council members agreed.

Scirocco also said he thinks the council needs to hold another public hearing on the amended budget before adopting it.

Mayor Scott Johnson said the City Council has already held four public hearings on the city budget over the past two months. He said the council, in his opinion, has satisfied its obligation to provide public input on the city budget.

But Johnson said members of the public are welcome to make comments about the budget at tonight’s meeting, just as they did at Monday’s meeting.

For example, Albert Callucci, of Lexington Road, Saratoga Springs, agreed with Franck that the tax rate increase in 2009 should be zero because of the difficult economic times.

Callucci said it was very nice that DPW workers picked up leaves on his street three times a week in the fall but such “deluxe” services are not necessary during the current worldwide recession.

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