Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs budget plan cuts taxes, raises spending

The city’s 2013 comprehensive budget proposal unveiled Tuesday night projects a $2.5 million increas

The city’s 2013 comprehensive budget proposal unveiled Tuesday night projects a $2.5 million increase in spending over 2012 but no increase in taxes.

City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, the city’s chief budget officer, is proposing a $39.7 million 2013 budget, with the major increases coming from mandated cost increases such as wages, benefits, retirement, insurance and utilities.

She said during her budget presentation at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that the proposed budget is defined by essential services and planning for the future.

“Essential city services have been shaved to critical levels since the Great Recession of 2008,” Madigan said.

“Even as the city was building an excess fund balance, it was cutting expenditures that have affected every department in its ability to serve the citizens,” she said in her budget message.

Madigan said the comprehensive budget plan, her first since taking office, is designed to “rebuild the foundation upon which the city’s government is built, the delivery of essential city services.”

The city has an excess fund balance of $1.5 million, she said.

She outlined her recommended plan for using this money, including setting aside $500,000 of the surplus in a tax stabilization reserve in event the city does not receive its state revenue sharing money associated with the video lottery terminals at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway on Crescent Avenue. A total of $1.49 million in VLT money, a state estimate, has been included in the 2013 budget.

The new budget’s total tax levy, including the general fund, debt service fund, and special assessment districts, is $18.4 million.

The projected 2013 tax rates are $6.02 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the inside tax district (a 0.01 decrease from this year’s rate) and $5.94 per $1,000 for the outside tax district (a 0.07 percent decrease from this year’s rate).

The city’s total property assessment for 2012, used to determine the tax rate, is $3 billion, a decrease of $913,046 from 2011. Madigan said this decrease was caused by grievances, other settled disagreements regarding tax assessments and various payments in lieu of taxes agreements.

Included in proposed 2013 spending is a $640,000 increase for public safety, for new personnel. Madigan said this spending includes the city picking up the pay for three firefighters covered the past three years by a federal grant. The fire department also has two new positions for its expanded ambulance program and other departmental duties.

The city emergency dispatching unit will see one new hire and the Police Department will see two new positions in the new budget.

“Cuts, attrition, and medical issues have scaled our police, fire and dispatch forces back to unacceptable levels,” Madigan said, proposing a total $22.1 million in public safety spending, accounting for more than half her budget plan.

The City Council will hold a series of budget workshops before it adopts a final 2013 budget in November.

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