City officials may not have to cut their spending so deeply this year after all.
Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins announced Tuesday that the city’s surplus is $2.8 million, higher than expected because several departments spent less in 2009 than they had budgeted and some revenues came in higher than expected.
The city collected $300,000 more in sales tax and $600,000 more in property tax last year.
“Hopefully things are turning around,” Ivins said.
Because the financial news is better than expected, Ivins canceled a public hearing April 14 and will hold a budget workshop instead at 6:30 p.m. April 20 before the next City Council meeting.
A month ago Ivins predicted a $2.23 million mid-year budget deficit. Although there’s now more money in the coffers, Ivins still wants officials to cut their spending.
“I have always in the past cautioned the council about using one-time money,” Ivins said. “Next year we won’t have these funds.”
But he didn’t give targets for department heads to cut.
“I’m not really prepared to give actual numbers,” he said.
It was clear most members of the City Council want to use some of the surplus to avoid layoffs.
“With the additional money that’s out there, we have to be awfully certain, dead certain, that if we cut any job that it’s absolutely necessary,” Mayor Scott Johnson said, adding he would prefer to make cuts at the beginning of next year, not now.
Johnson submitted $200,000 in recreation department cuts as Ivins requested, and a few people opposed to them spoke up at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Johnson proposed eliminating three of the six recreation staffers and doing away with Camp Saradac for school-age children in the summer as well as cutting back on other programs.
“I take offense at those who view recreation as some sort of a luxury for the city,” said Rick Stone, president of the Saratoga Babe Ruth League. “Recreation is a quality of life issue.”
But Commissioner of Accounts John Franck said he thinks officials should make the tough cuts this year.
“What I’m hearing is nothing more than a pledge to increase taxes in 2011 dramatically,” Franck said.
He also criticized fellow department heads for poor budgeting last year.
“We look like a bunch of idiots if we can’t get the numbers right to start with,” he said.
Besides the surplus, officials announced other positive budget changes on Tuesday.
The mayor said he believes the city will sell its public parking lot on Broadway to local builder Sonny Bonacio this year after all. The city initially expected to spend $500,000 from the $750,000 sale this year, but a month ago officials said the sale probably would not go through in 2010.
Johnson also said planned health insurance changes could save the city $400,000 this year by consolidating from four insurance companies to just one for city employees and retirees.
In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council unanimously agreed to allow the steel skate park ramps to be open from dawn to dusk for skateboarders to skate at their own risk.