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September 24, 2018

Fulton Lawmakers Adopt Budget After Speakers Urge Them to Cut More


Fulton residents will see the first tax increase in four years and only the second in the last eight years as the result of the budget adopted Tuesday night by the Common Council.

The $15.1 million budget spends $160,000 less than the 2011 budget but because the city lost almost $8 million in taxable property this year, taxes on the remaining properties will be slightly higher.

The budget increases the tax levy 1.17%.

It reduces the city’s contribution to the public library by $80,000 and zeroes out this year’s $145,000 payment for priority service to Menter Ambulance of Fulton.  Five positions left vacant by retirements or departures will not be filled.  The city will not repair sidewalks this summer and will not buy new equipment, except to replace one or two very old ladder fire trucks with used trucks.

“None of it makes me happy,” said Mayor Ron Woodward in introducing the budget. “I’ve had bad budgets, but nothing like this.”

A handful of residents spoke at the budget’s public hearing.

Resident Mark Aldasch, a former candidate for Mayor, told Councilors, “I think you can do better with this budget.  I think you need to challenge the public safety side.”

He pointed out that the city of Oneida, which is about the same size as Fulton, has police and fire departments which are half the size of Fulton’s.

“This is the time to be cutting government,” he said.

“I think you took the easy way out with the cuts you made,” said resident Frank Castiglia. “You’ve got some city employees making $100,000 and you’re going to force the library to possibly shut down?”

Woodward said he has the figures to prove that letting an employee earn a lot of overtime is cheaper than hiring another employee and paying that employee’s benefits.  “We’re ahead $30,000. Didn’t look smart to you, but it was,” he said.

Lisa Emrich asked why the city only asked for a 5% increase in worker contributions to their health insurance.  Woodward explained that an increase higher than 5% would have ended the city’s favorable grandfathered status for its contracts and would have imposed more costs on the city.

“I don’t think the city has a spending problem,” said former Council member David Guyer, who owns a business in the city and said the real problem is the shrinking tax base.

The city lost $8 million in taxable property from a judge’s forced reassessment of the hydropower plants in the city, the purchase of the former P&C supermarket by Cayuga Community College, and the closing of Birds-Eye.

Another former Council member, Bob Weston, commended the group for “the great job they did on the budget.”

He and resident Jo Farrell each said the city needed to find a way to get the city’s large non-profits to pay something for the services they receive.  Woodward said Cayuga Community College’s Foundation head wants to talk about that in January, but has said that Oswego County Opportunities rejected any discussion of changing its use of city police to transport some of its clients.

Lawmakers also voted unanimously (minus departing Council member Kim Roy, who has attended very few meetings in the past year) to waive the state’s 2% cap on the tax levy.

Woodward explained that the group that represents local governments recommended the waiver because the cap is new, enforcement by the state is uncertain, and mistakes made by the city could bring expensive penalties.

The city’s tax levy increase is about a third of what would have been allowed under the cap.

While Aldasch said that waiving the cap showed him that the Council didn’t have confidence in its budget, resident Dennis Merlino said it would be irresponsible not to waive it.

3 Responses “Fulton Lawmakers Adopt Budget After Speakers Urge Them to Cut More”

  1. The Informed Truth
    December 28, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Fulton did a good job keeping the budget down in these tough times.
    Thank you to the Mayor and Council.
    No one wants any increase,
    but it could have been a lot worse.

    Cayuga Community College wants to help the City with voluntary contributions
    even though they will be paying less property taxes than P&C did.
    Does that make CCC good citizens?

    Oswego County Opportunities owns a huge chunk of Fulton,
    and as a gigantic non-profit conglomerate they pay no taxes or fees for any of their Fulton properties or services.
    So Fulton residents are forced to pay this tax increase for OCO’s free ride.

    If OCO paid its fair share
    all Fulton residents would have received a tax cut,
    and the library may have kept its funding.
    Oswego County Opportunities should learn from Cayuga Community College’s example.

    Is Oswego County Opportunities a freeloader,
    taking advantage of the City and her people?
    Is OCO a parasite on Fulton’s residents and resources?
    Is OCO a bad citizen?

  2. Rowdy1
    December 28, 2011 at 10:54 am

    The Fulton mayor and city council are taking their approach to government directly from the New York state thruway authority, and the state taxing authorities on cigarettes and fishing licenses. All three taxing authorities were falling short of needed funds to maintain budgets at current levels. So to raise more revenue, the tolls, taxes on cigarettes and fishing licenses were raised; which meant revenue dropped even more as people decided to drive, smoke and fish less. So to as the properties in Fulton are sold for much less than their assessed values due to the excessive property taxes and the deterioration of the single family neighborhoods, so too will the cities tax revenues decrease. The Fulton mayor and city council must make the hard decisions to reduce, combine and eliminate services. These decisions will be forced upon them if they refuse to act as the city will continue on its downward spiral.
    The mayor and city council have failed to understand that public libraries are an essential part of having an educated and literate population. Of course, since half of Fulton is on welfare, who needs an educated and literate population.
    If a public library is an excellent model of government at its best. Then, the Fulton government has shown us a government model at its worst.

  3. TTCUSTER
    December 28, 2011 at 11:36 am

    The city accepts a budget with cuts and increased taxes. What a surprise. Over $900,000 in overtime,over $200,000 in fuel costs,over $10,000 in cell-phone costs. Yet they think they did a great job and it was hard to do. It’s like being a 1-A college football school and you just beat a 1-AAA school and you feel you are great. Nice job. Just another shovel full of dirt on the grave of the city of Fulton. Instead of really trying to make cuts that save money for the future and making the slum landlords pay for the cost to keep the city safe from the tenants they make a fortune off of they choose to add to the tax burden of the single family home owner. Yes we could try and get the non-profit agencies to help pay for the services they get but the real bandits are the landlords. Wake up Fulton or the nightmare known as the city budget will kill the city of Fulton.

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