FULTON, NY – The city of Fulton’s 2018 budget passed a unanimous roll call vote by the Fulton Common Council after a public hearing brought out mostly positive remarks on Tuesday.
The $16,492,000 budget brought a zero percent tax increase despite a spending increase of $245,861 from last year and revenues down $1,931 for a total of $9,605,997.
A recent push by councilors to sell city-owned properties acquired by tax foreclosure has contributed to a $10,844,170 increase from last year in the city’s total assessed value, reaching $337,533,626.
The tax rate remained steady at $20.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, the increase in assessed value helping to keep this figure unchanged, city officials said.
The final budget proposal sparked mostly positive response from community members during Tuesday’s public hearing.
“Thank you to the Mayor, Dan O’Brien, each of the city councilors for putting together a tight budget. I’m glad to see the numbers the way they are, it’s a good step forward for the city,” said Dennis Merlino, incoming fifth ward councilor beginning 2018. “Holding everybody to a tight line, I’m very respectful of how conservative and hard fought every dollar is.”
Merlino thanked the city department heads and employees for their hard work and dedication to make the 2018 budget possible, as well as Fulton citizens for stepping up in volunteerism with several organizations and projects underway to rejuvenate the city.
“I want to commend everyone that makes this possible,” former councilor, Bob Weston echoed. “We’re working with less, some departments have consolidated, we’ve got less people working and you’re still providing all the same services in an efficient and cost effective way, so my hat is off to you for all the work that you’ve done.”
Weston also thanked the many volunteer programs throughout the city which, when paired with the 2018 budget, he says provide an outcome that is “optimistic.”
County legislator representing the 25th district, Frank Castiglia Jr. brought forth a few suggestions in an otherwise positive review of the budget.
In all, he noted the stable tax rate, increasing assessed value, and all services proposed in the 2018 budget and commended the council on a job well done, especially noting the bonding at the former Nestle site that he referred to as “the smartest bonding I’ve ever seen.”
However, as in years past, Castiglia suggested getting the west side fire station on the public rolls and enforcing two police officers per patrol vehicle, both for safety and fiscal savings purposes.
These changes would affect the public safety portion of the budget, currently the city’s spending majority at more than 50% of total expenditures when factoring in retirement expenses.
Castiglia continued to address the $10,000 contract between the city of Fulton and Operation Oswego County, a contract he finds “ridiculous.”
“I have a major contention with any municipality giving to OOC or the IDA when Oswego County tax payers already give nearly three-quarters of a million dollars to these agencies. Their job is to promote, bring industry and jobs to Oswego County- Fulton is a part of Oswego County, they shouldn’t pay more,” he explained. “I’m not against development, I’m against paying duplicate money when Oswego County is already paying out of tax money.”
Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. said the investment is one he finds to be of substantial value as Michael Treadwell, executive director of OOC has been instrumental in assisting the city with grant applications through CenterState CEO.
A previous deal with Fulton based K&N’s Foods USA LLC set an adequate example as it has paid off the yearly investment several times over, Mayor Woodward said, predicting another abandoned manufacturing site would have been inevitable without the intervention of Treadwell and OOC.
The council voted unanimously to approve the contract between the city and OOC for another year.
Finally, Castiglia said he would like to see the money budgeted for a splash park used elsewhere.
Third ward councilor, Don Patrick explained that the budget included $45,000 to invest in a splash park intended to be built at Recreation Park by the summer of 2018.
A splash park, a concrete pad with sprinkler systems, is a better alternative than reopening a city swimming pool as they require much less maintenance and do not require budgeting for lifeguard duties, he said.
However, noting the need for something for the city’s children to do, especially in the summer as Lake Neatahwanta is undergoing continued dredging, Patrick said splash parks are what many cities are turning to as they prove to be more cost effective and usable for all age levels and abilities as they are handicap accessible, citing Oswego and Camillus as examples.
After meeting with the engineers who designed a splash park in Camillus, Patrick said they are hopeful to use city forces to construct the splash park to save money in that aspect and in the long term, he is anticipating a splash park on each side of the city.
Department heads in public works, water, and sewer, are currently looking into associated costs.
After disagreement among the council in regards to a raise of $250 for each councilor, the resolution was dropped and the council salaries remained the same.
Self sustaining funds: water, sewer, and garbage and refuse will see steady rates as well.
The city’s water budget for 2018 will see a surplus of $46,318 after spending $1,450,842 and bringing in $1,497,160.
The garbage and refuse budget breaks even, spending and revenues equaling $1,144,350.
The sewer budget, however, required balancing by a use of $127,758 taken from the fund balance to equal out the $1,765,262 spent to the $1,637,504 brought in.