For the second consecutive year, Mayor Dayton King has proposed a budget that carries no increase in property taxes.
The proposed budget for 2013 is slightly more than this year’s budget of $15.4 million. King will present the spending plan tonight to the Common Council. The city has to adopt a budget by Dec. 10. The city’s fiscal year begins Jan. 1.
King’s proposed budget contains no personnel layoffs, retains existing programs and services and does not provide raises to any employees. It does include the addition of a code enforcement officer at a salary of $30,000.
“We are holding the line,” King said. “I am not suggesting any department heads get a raise. If the Common Council wants to do that, that is their choice.
The current year budget contains a tax rate of $21.71 per $1,000. The city remains at approximately 97 percent of its constitutional taxing.
King said he is using $600,000 from the fund balance, or surplus, to balance the budget. “I feel comfortable using $600,000 out of the $2 million fund balance,” he said. He said the fund balance has grown 80 percent since he took office three years ago.
The proposed budget initially came in with department requests that exceeded revenue projections by $1 million, King said. “We got that down to $600,000,” he said.
Jay Zarelli, Fifth Ward councilman, said he supports the mayor’s proposal to keep taxes flat through use of the fund balance. “I don’t mind using the fund balance to keep taxes from not going up. We can also work on his budget after he gets it to us,” he said.
Lowering taxes in the city remains his highest priority, Zarelli said. “We have to start bringing them down. It is the main reason I am there,” he said.
To reduce the deficit, King eliminated:
u $150,000 in retroactive raises for city police officers. King said police already received “raises” when they won an arbitration hearing last year that required the city retroactively pay officers double the daily pay for working on holidays. “We will negotiate with future raises, but we are not going backward,” he said.
u $1 million from the Fire Department for a vehicle that combines the functions of a typical engine pump and an aerial ladder. King said the city is looking to purchase a used fire truck from Westmere Fire Department for $250,000. This truck combines ladder and tanker capabilities. “That is what we are looking for,” he said.
King said he is hoping to achieve further savings by reducing overtime in the Fire Department’s budget.
He said the city could see at least $100,000 in savings by getting the department to change its minimum staffing requirements. King he wants to reduce minimum staffing level requirements from seven people per shift to six.
The Police and Fire departments have the same number of people on staff, but King said the Fire Department’s overtime budget is about $150,000 more — $275,000 versus $120,000. “We are thinking of taking money out of budget for minimum staffing, but we want to negotiate that,” he said.
If the city is successful in reducing the minimum staffing requirement, then the code enforcement officer King is placing in the budget would come into play, he said. The city’s current code enforcement officer works with the Fire Department, and the new person would fill in any gaps.
King said this is his third budget and the second without a tax increase. He first budget had an increase of about 9 percent, he said.
“The finances have stabilized and we are on track with decreasing taxes in the year next with proposed increases in sales taxes revenues,” King said.