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Saratoga Springs could see double-digit tax hike next year

Saratoga Springs could see double-digit tax hike next year

The city’s chief financial officer said Friday that a double-digit tax increase is possible next yea

The city’s chief financial officer said Friday that a double-digit tax increase is possible next year.

But he is starting the budget review process early to avoid such a fate.

“We could very well be looking at double digits,” said city Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins. “We are going to work hard not to have that happen.”

The City Council, facing a nearly $3 million 2009 budget shortfall, used a combination of spending cuts, amounting to $1.3 million, and $1.8 million in surplus money to balance the current year’s $37 million budget earlier this month.

One city employee was let go; significant layoffs in the police, fire and public works departments were averted. The 2009 city budget did not include a tax increase.

Next year will be more difficult.

Ivins sent out letters to all city departments on Friday giving the departments general budget directions as well as a budget worksheet.

His direction for the 2010 city budget is that departmental budgets need to be “flat.” He also wants the departmental budget information earlier this year. Instead of a Sept. 15 deadline for departmental budgets, the deadline is Sept. 1.

Ivins will hold two public hearings in September at City Hall. At the first public hearing, the city’s largest department, public safety, and its smallest department, accounts, will give PowerPoint presentations, line-by-line, of their budgets.

At the second hearing, the city’s second largest department, public works, and the rest of the city departments will give line-by-line presentations of their budgets.

Ivins said the city has no intention of including revenue from video lottery terminals at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway in the 2010 budget, as it did in the 2009 budget.

The city had expected $1.9 million in revenue from the machines this year, only to have the state change its VLT revenue-sharing rules to shut the city out. That was a major reason for this year’s budget shortfall.

“We will continue to fight for it,” Ivins said about the VLT revenue. State legislators representing Saratoga Springs have introduced bills asking that the city’s share of the revenue be reinstated, but nothing has happened so far.

Ivins is also promoting a $2 surcharge for the city on all rock concert tickets sold at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. He said getting this revenue — which could be $500,000 per year — will be an uphill battle because SPAC management is against the surcharge and the state Legislature would have to approve the measure.

“There will be a tax increase,” Ivins said. One of his goals is to keep that increase under 10 percent.

He said “serious cuts” in city spending will have to be explored.

Ivins said nearly 80 percent of city spending in a given year is on personnel.

Sales tax revenue the city receives is down approximately 7 percent from the same time in 2008, he said.

“By the fall, we will have a better handle on that,” Ivins said about sales tax revenue. The August sales tax revenue, much of it generated by the horse racing season, is not known until October, he said.

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