|Adopted 2022||Proposed 2023||Percent change|
|Total tax levy||$21,312,217||$22,185,005||4.1%|
|Tax Rate (Inside) per $1,000 assessed value||$6.43||$6.67||3.73%|
|Tax Rate (Outside) per $1,000 assessed value||$6.37||$6.61||3.77%|
SARATOGA SPRINGS — In order to combat inflation and support the construction, maintenance and staffing of a third fire station in the Eastern Plateau, the city of Saratoga Springs is seeking to raise taxes for 2023.
The average increase in taxes is over 3%, said Minita Sanghvi, the commissioner of finance for the city during her comprehensive budget presentation Thursday evening.
If approved as is, those living in the city’s inside tax district would see an increase to $6.67 per $1,000 of assessed value for 2023, up from $6.43 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2022. Those living in the outside district would see an increase to $6.61 per $1,000 of assessed value for 2023, up from $6.37 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2022.
Sanghvi said that means someone with a home assessed at $200,000 would pay $4 a month more.
“We are doing this because the city is facing a once-in-a-generation undertaking of an EMS fire station and we are reaching out to the community to play their part,” Sanghvi said.
The city broke ground in August on a new several-million-dollar fire station on Henning Road. For years, the city fire department has been working with officials to get the new fire station, which city officials have said will greatly improve response times to that area of the city, especially developments east of the Northway. The city bonded $7.1 million for the station in 2022 and will bond another $1.4 million in 2023 to cover increased costs for construction due to inflation and supply chain issues, Sanghvi said.
The city currently has two other fire stations. To help staff the new station, the city accepted a $4.1 million federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant during its meeting on Thursday. That grant will be paid out over three years, enabling the city to hire 16 fire fighters and pay for their training, salaries and benefits.
However, that money will not cover the costs of day-to-day operations.
While city officials have repeatedly assured taxpayers that they will use the next three years to create a future outlook for the fire department that includes finding ways to continue funding the 16 new personnel, it has not indicated what would happen if it cannot fund those positions.
Public Safety Commissioner James Montaginino, who oversees the fire and police departments, said that one of the stipulations of the award is that they cannot lay off any firefighters once the award money is gone.
Resident John Kauffman asked the city to table the resolution during public comment so that the city could assess the future financial impacts. He said he had emailed Sanghvi regarding his concerns but received no response.
“Most troubling is no one on the council has publicly acknowledged the problem, let alone offered a plan for the future,” he said.
Montaginino said that even hiring the 16 officers does not meet the staffing needs of the new fire station.
“With or without the SAFER Grant, it would be absolutely necessary for us to hire at least 16 men, in fact more than 16, even to provide minimum staffing at fire station No. 3,” he said.
Overall, the city’s proposed 2023 budget comes in just above last year’s adopted budget with a total of $54.2 million in expenses.
“We’ve seen significant increases in healthcare costs, retirement benefits and insurance costs, which are causing a considerable strain on our expenses,” Sanghvi said.
Healthcare increased 13.2% and other benefits such as vision, disability and unemployment, rose 17.4%.
The budget also accounts for an almost 48% increase in gas and oil costs.
Of the city’s departments, public safety requested the most and was given the most money in the budget. While the department requested $41.3 million, the proposed budget only provides $32 million, according to the presentation.
The budget also accounts for an increase in sales tax, with a proposed amount of $16.8 million. Sanghvi said while the city budgeted $14.9 million for 2022, it anticipates bringing in $16.7 million this year. The proposed budget also has almost $5.5 million for debt service and uses $1.1 million in reserves.
The city will hold several budget workshops and two public hearings as follows:
- Oct. 14 at noon — Accounts and finance meet for workshop
- Oct. 17 at 11 a.m. — Public works and recreation meet for workshop
- Oct. 18 at 6:45 p.m. — The first public hearing on the budget will be held
- Oct. 19 at 10:30 a.m. — Public safety meets for workshop
- Oct. 24 at 3 p.m. — The mayor’s office and civil service meet for a workshop
- Oct. 26 at 4 p.m — There will be a meeting regarding capital projects
- Oct. 28 at 3 p.m. — There will be a meeting for the amended budget
- Nov. 1 at 6:45 p.m. — The second public hearing on the budget will be held
“We highly recommend robust participation from the community” Sanghvi said..
She said if the budget is not approved on or before Nov. 30, the proposed comprehensive budget will become the 2023 budget.
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