Gloversville mayor: Avoid tax hike by tapping reserves

Mayor Dayton King is proposing to balance the city’s 2012 budget on the back of its rainy day fund,

Mayor Dayton King is proposing to balance the city’s 2012 budget on the back of its rainy day fund, calling for no increase in property taxes, no new fees, no layoffs and no cuts to city services.

He recommended to the Common Council Friday using $630,042 of the city’s general fund balance — unspent money from previous budget years — to close a 2012 budget gap. At the end of this year the city is expecting between $1.6 million and $1.7 million in its fund balance, which would fall to approximately $1 million if King’s budget is adopted.

But the state Comptroller’s Office recommends cities keep their fund balances between 8 percent and 10 percent of their total budget. King’s plan would leave the balance at 6.45 percent of the city’s $15,488,842 total budget.

King said that in 2008 the Common Council used $800,000 of the fund balance to cover a budget gap.

“This is something that has happened in the past,” he said. “And certainly we’re in a tough spot where people don’t want their taxes raised and they also don’t want decreased city services.”

He said he expects to restore the fund balance back to 8 percent to 10 percent of the budget by 2013 with sales tax revenue from the new Walmart supercenter, currently being constructed on South Kingsboro Avenue Extension. He is anticipating building material sales tax revenue to be $25,000 next year and retail sales tax of $150,000 from the new Walmart for the fourth quarter.

But department heads should continue to identify places in their budgets to trim, said Councilman-At-Large James Robinson. There are still cost-saving options out there, he said, that would allow the city to forgo using its fund balance to fill the budget gap.

“We try not to use the fund balance and we try to keep it for a rainy day for any situations that might come up in future years,” Robinson said. “There are other things that we should think about to control our spending. That’s one of the major things we still need to do.”

He said the city is in “desperate need” for departments to find places to cut.

The budget also includes revenue of $7.7 million from real property taxes and $2.25 million from sales and use taxes. The city’s contribution to police and fire employee retirement next year increases by $90,000 to $970,000. The city is also budgeted twice as much as it did last year for holiday buyout for the Police Department in 2012, based on the decision of an arbitrator during PBA contract negotiations.

King said he and other department heads did not get a raise under the budget, but the city assessor, clerk and deputy clerk all asked for a $500 increase to their salaries to offset an increase in health insurance premiums. “Certainly I don’t blame them for asking, but I’ll allow the council to make that decision,” he said.

The city will save $200,000 by the end of this year on prescription costs because of a deal with ProAct, a New York state-based pharmacy benefit management company.

Although the budget calls for no layoffs, King said some city positions could be eliminated via attrition. In addition, a referendum item on the Nov. 8 ballot asks voters whether or not they think transit should be officially included in the City Charter. Doing so would give the Council power of approval over the department manager appointed by the mayor.

“While this does not ask if we should abolish the [Gloversville Transit System], I believe it will be an indicator of how the general public feels toward paying for it,” King said in his budget release. “I have intentionally left the Transit Department alone and urge the council take note of the result of the referendum vote.”

King said he wants to create a position within the city for a blight officer, but he believes the council will be skeptical of it without more information. The person would be in charge of working with the city attorney and judge to hold people accountable to city codes and inspections.

Robinson said he is unsure if the city has the money to fund the position, though.

“Every department is doing their best to reduce their budget,” Robinson said. “The mayor has different views than certain council members, and so do I. Hopefully it’s a win-win situation for the city of Gloversville. The mayor comes out with his budget every year and we must learn how to compromise now for the future of the city.”

King said the city and the Council have been very fiscally responsible this year. After the state Comptroller’s Office released a partly critical, partly complimentary audit of city finances earlier this year, council members have worked to regularly review the city’s revenues and appropriations.

“We haven’t been able to provide what we used to be able to provide,” King said. “But at the same time we’ve cut our staff tremendously. Realistically, what needs to happen is people have to learn that the services aren’t going to be what they used to be, and the citizens of our country need to rely less on the government and more on themselves.”

A public hearing on the budget will be held Nov. 5. A budget needs to be approved by Dec. 10.

Categories: Schenectady County

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