Despite the deepening economic recession, the city finished the year with a surplus of about $200,000, Finance Commissioner Bruce Van Genderen said Thursday.
Van Genderen said that he is in the process of calculating the final numbers in the city’s 2008 balance sheet.
It is the city’s sixth consecutive year in the black, a period that followed four years of deficits and led to a fiscal crisis and an accumulated deficit that reached $1.7 million.
The 2008 fund balance raises the city’s accumulated surplus to about $1.55 million, Van Genderen said.
That will be cut in half during the current fiscal year because the Common Council is using $800,000 from the surplus to balance the 2009 budget.
Van Genderen expressed optimism that the city will not fall back into a deficit situation in 2009, though he said he is concerned about declining sales tax revenues.
He said it’s clear that the city will not generate the budgeted $2.2 million in sales tax revenue for 2009, and he now projects a $200,000 shortfall in that account.
He said disappointing sales tax numbers are being at least partially balanced by funding received from state Office of Court Administration and state transit aid.
“We’re doing all right,” said Mayor Tim Hughes. Given the economic climate, he said, the city is relatively sound.
He said federal stimulus money will repave Bleecker and State streets and the city will apply for funding in the new federal COPS program.
Hughes said the program will permit the city to hire two new police officers and receive full funding for those positions for three years.
Under provisions of the program, the city will be obligated to maintain police staffing levels for a fourth year but may make changes after that.
Given that 14 officers are eligible to retire in the next five years, the two new officers will be valuable additions to the force, Hughes said.
Department spokesman Capt. James Lorenzoni said the two new officers will expand the force to 34 and provide enough roster strength to address identified needs including business district patrols and crime prevention efforts. The additions may also lead to an increased police presence at the middle and high schools, where officers now make a brief appearance one or two days a week, Lorenzoni said.
“We’re excited to be able to apply for this funding,” Lorenzoni said.
The hirings are not only important for job creation goals, he said, but they would also begin to restore positions cut in 2002, when there were 39 officers on the roster. That year, during the city’s fiscal crisis, the council eliminated a vacant detective post and laid off four patrolmen.
In the ensuing years, the roster fell as low as 27 officers, Lorenzoni said.