Preliminary figures prepared for Amsterdam’s 2013-14 budget would result in a 3.2 percent tax rate increase.
The city’s fiscal year begins July 1. City law requires a public hearing on a budget proposal be held no later than May 1 and the budget be formally adopted no later than June 1.
The $27.94 million preliminary budget released this week merely represents requests department heads submitted to the office of the City Controller, and one councilman on Wednesday said there are already important figures missing in the preliminary plan.
The city has been facing difficulties for more than a year getting a solid handle on its finances, and the unexpected death of Controller Ron Wierzbicki in December left the office shorthanded. A new deputy controller, David Mitchell, was hired and began work last week.
Mitchell on Wednesday declined to comment on the preliminary budget, which was drafted by Wierzbicki and Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis.
The preliminary budget for the current fiscal year, when it was released in 2012, estimated a 55 percent tax hike but was missing various figures and the actual tax increase was only 3.8 percent.
In the current fiscal year, the city’s $27.5 million budget carries a tax rate of $15.13 per $1,000 of a home’s assessed value. The preliminary budget for next year puts the tax rate at $15.62 per $1,000.
Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas on Wednesday said he hasn’t sharpened his pencil yet but a quick view of the preliminary budget shows “tons of expenses that aren’t in there,” including the impact of amortizing police and fire retirement costs. He said the charges listed for water service will likely have to be pared down.
During a meeting this week, Dybas said, the Common Council appeared to be leaning toward approving a special referendum for next month to ask voters whether the controller should be elected by the public or appointed by the council. Changing the system to allow the council to name a controller would require a change in the city’s charter. As it stands now, a new controller will have to be elected in November and start work in January.
Dybas said the council is expected to decide on the controller referendum within the next two weeks.