SARATOGA SPRINGS - Property taxes will drop slightly in Saratoga Springs under a 2020 budget proposed Tuesday by Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan.
The average tax rate would drop 0.05 percent, with the inside district rate at $6.08 per $1,000 assessed value and the outside-district rate at $6.01 per $1,000. Madigan said it is the eighth consecutive year in which taxes have been held steady or dropped.
The proposed general operating budget would be $48.2 million, an increase of $1.1 million over the 2019 budget. Madigan said contractual wage increases, additional funding for information technology, increased commodity costs, and health insurance accounts for much of the year-over-year increase.
"The 2020 Comprehensive Budget is driven by my continued commitment to a stable tax rate in the face of the rising costs of good government, unexpected expenses, and the New York State property tax cap," Madigan said in her statement accompanying release of the proposal.
She said priorities for the year will include completing the post-lightning strike renovation of City Hall and planning for an East Side fire and emergency response station. Madigan said that while the city doesn't yet have a site for a new station, there are negotiations for a site, and she's included $600,000 toward design costs in the proposed capital budget.
The $8.6 million capital budget also proposes improvements to the Loughberry Lake dam, cyber-security upgrades, a comprehensive plan to address the city’s expanding recreation trail network, and developing a long-term solution to address the city’s homelessness issue, including finding a permanent location for a Code Blue shelter. Madigan is proposing a $50,000 allocation to Shelters of Saratoga, the city's lead agency on homelessness, to help it work toward a permanent location and conduct outreach to the homeless.
"There is actually, working with the mayor's office, a lot of activity on a permanent solution," Madigan said.
in addition to sales tax revenue, property taxes, and federal and state grants, funding sources include drawing $1.9 million from the city's fund balance. "The city has built these funds up with taxpayer dollars; using them to maintain a stable property tax rate is the best way to utilize these funds. Essentially we are giving these dollars directly back to the taxpayer in order to maintain taxes and services," Madigan said.
Madigan is also recommending some of the current fund balance be used to hire two new police officers, and to hire an additional firefighter, pending the possible disability retirement of a fire department lieutenant. The council on Tuesday approved that spending, in a separate action from the budget.
"This helps us with our immediate needs," said Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin.
Following Madigan's presentation to the City Council Tuesday night, budget workshops have been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 22, and Thursday Oct. 24. Other council members briefly praised her work, while noting there will be discussion at the workshops. A vote on the budget is tentatively planned for early November.
The complete 2020 Comprehensive Budget proposal is available on the city’s website.
Correction: 10/3/19, 11 a.m.: The proposed 2020 tax rates for the city of Saratoga Springs are, inside district $6.08 per $1,000 of assessed property value, and outside district, $6.01 per $1,000, on average a 0.05 percent average tax cut. Incorrect rates appeared in an earlier version of this story and in Thursday's Gazette due to a calculation error by the city finance office.