Fulton Braces For Big Increases In Retirement Fund Contributions

Two bad budget years are coming for local governments like the city of Fulton. Mayor Ron Woodward thinks the city can get through the first year without a tax increase, but he’s not very certain about the second year.

The state is imposing large increases in what local governments and schools contribute to the retirement fund for local and state employees. That’s because the pension fund money is invested, and investments all suffered severe losses because of the recession.

There have been years that the investment return has been so good that local governments have had to contribute almost nothing. But the state has warned municipal governments that this year, which saw a large increase, and the next two years will require high rates of contribution.

Woodward estimates the increase alone will cost Fulton an additional $365,000 for the 2010 budget, with another increase of about the same amount for 2011.

“I’m going to try very hard this year to have no tax increase,” he said recently. “Next year is another thing.”

At the same time, Woodward said the state boosted the utilities tax from a quarter of one percent to two percent — an eight-fold increase. That will add another $6,000 to the budget.

He said the administration is scouring the budget to find ways to save money. An example: “We’ve been going through the street lighting accounts to see what we can get rid of or put on lower wattage.”

A city budget is due by the end of December.