OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Monday night, the Common Council approved the 2012 City Operating Budget (+tax warrant) by a 5-2 vote.
Voting no were councilors Shawn Walker and Bill Sharkey.
The amount of the 2012 tax levy is $6,994,999. Taxes are due and payable in two installments (on the first day of April and the first day of June). The rate is $8.980 per $1,000.
There is no property tax increase. But residents are facing a 34 percent increase in sewer fees.
“The reason you have a zero percent increase year after year is because some of that (sewer) money is being transferred in; it certainly is not smoke and mirrors, that is part of the budget process. That just happens to be the way this process works,” explained Council President Ron Kaplewicz. “Someone will say that means we get more money to spend. Yes the city does have a little bit more money, but we’re able to do it within a budget that allows us to keep a zero (tax rate) increase.”
The city is required to have the water/sewer service self-sufficient by 2012, he said. It is a requirement under the consent decree, he added.
He said he is urging all the mayoral candidates to make this their first issue.
“If this isn’t their first priority issue as a candidate, then they have to re-think things. If we have to start borrowing $87 million, the debt service on that is going to drive everybody out of this town. We need to address this issue. We should be down in Washington, Albany or other places, trying to figure out how we get the resources to deal with all this,” he said. “We can’t bury our heads. We have to figure out how to solve the problem.”
He thanked everyone who worked “very, very hard for many, many months” to put together the budget “that I think is fiscally prudent.”
None of the councilors or administration feels good about the sewer increase, but it had to be done, he said.
“If you are able to (water) meter in a home, this is a good time for you to look very seriously at that,” he said. “If you go metered, you will pay less in 2012 than you did in 2011 for unlimited water.”
“People are not happy right now the way the rates keep going up and up,” Councilor Walker said. “I’m not, either. Every call I had wasn’t positive about this. We’re scaring people out of this city. I’m worried about the elderly people on fixed incomes.”
Some of them asked whether it could be made into monthly payments, he added.
Councilor Mike Myers agreed in principle. He also has had some phone calls regarding the fee hike. However, no one came to speak at the public hearing regarding the proposed budget prior to the meeting, he noted.
The city, in the past, never charged the proper amount for its drinking water and sewer, Councilor Connie Cosemento said.
This way it spreads thing out over everyone, not just the taxpayers, she said.
Prior to approving the budget, the council OK’d nine amendments to the document.
Decrease – $1,144 (change in salary position – police)
Increase – $26,000 (vehicle)
Increase – $2,000 (personal services, overtime)
Decrease – $2,000 (to reduce out of title allowance and increase overtime)
Increase – $9,938 (change in employee title)
Decrease – $92 (Social Security adjust for change in personal services)
Increase – $795 (Social Security adjust for change in personal services)
Increase – $24.764 (sales tax, adjust estimated revenue)
Increase – $10,733 (Water Fund, fund amendments)