If the Fulton city budget was approved today, it would have a tax increase of 7.5%. Between now and the end of the year, Mayor Ron Woodward said he will be going line-by-line through the budget to shrink it to fit under the state’s property tax levy cap.
In the last couple of weeks, he said he and the members of the Common Council have trimmed a $750,000 increase in spending down to $300,000, cutting the tax levy increase from 14% to 7.5%.
The city’s cap is 3% this year because it has an unused 1% from last year to add to the 2%.
Woodward said the city budget has been hit by three things that are beyond its control:
- A $250,000 increase in health insurance costs;
- A $160,000 increase in state-mandated pension costs;
- And the loss of large amounts of tax dollars from the state-ordered reduction in the assessment of the hydropower plants in the city and the agreement to lower taxes on the closed Birds-Eye plant.
The Mayor said he’s made a host of small cuts in budgets to get to the point of a 7.5% tax levy hike. So far, he said, these cuts will not result in a loss of services to taxpayers.
The city has also reached new contract agreements with its police and fire department unions, which will see union members contributing more towards their health insurance. Woodward said workers represented by CSEA have rejected a similar contract offer and the issue may have to go to a mediator.
He said he is hoping to make further reductions without cutting either services or jobs. ”We’re lean and mean now,” he said. “And we’re gonna get leaner.”
The city has cut 21 positions in the last five years to come to what Woodward says is “the lowest level in many years.” He said the city worked hard this year to bring down overtime in the public works department, though it is far more difficult in the city’s fire department, where mandatory minimum staffing creates large overtime costs with every sick day.
Woodward said he doesn’t know yet where he’ll find the last $300,000 to bring the tax levy under the cap, but the search begins today. He’s got about three weeks. The Common Council Tuesday agreed to hold the public hearing and vote on the 2013 budget on Thursday, Dec. 27 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council chambers.