OSWEGO, NY – At it’s meeting Monday night, the Common Council voted to go down what the mayor said could be “a slippery slope” in the future.
By a 5-0-2 vote, councilors approved Local Law No. 2 of the Year 2014 – a local law amending Section 4.07 of the Charter of the City of Oswego with respect to the annual budget. Councilors Fran Enwright and Mike Todd were excused Monday night.
The Local Law amends a section of the code of the city of Oswego to read: Should the budget have a tax rate increase of 5 percent or more than the previous year’s tax rate, then the budget shall go to a public referendum in that year’s November election, by operation of law. In the event the budget cannot be presented at the general election, then there shall be held a special election at the earliest date.
Last year, the city increased taxes by more than 40 percent. Had the local law been in place then, the taxpayers of the city more than likely would have voted it down, Mayor Tom Gillen said.
“If that happened, we would have had to find a way to trim a lot of money out of the budget,” he told Oswego County Today. “We would have probably started with recreation and worked our way toward safety.”
However, things have leveled off and such a blockbuster increase isn’t likely to occur again, he added.
“The good news is we had that (large increase) just last year, so we don’t expect another. We’re going to do everything we can to keep it under 5 percent anyway; it’s just good leadership.”
But, there are a lot of factors involved, such as are the city’s revenue streams going to be good, what will sales tax look like, the generation of power at the High Dam … “There are a lot of things in play. It’s looking good,” he said.
Passage of the local law means the city will have to go back to creating a budget by the end of August.
The proposed budget shall be presented to the council no later than August 1. The council then shall have until August 31 (or the next business day) to approve a budget.
“We’re going to have to forecast how we’re going to close out our year next year. We have no idea, we can trend, but we’ll have to wait and see,” the mayor said.
The city’s budget schedule is different from everyone else’s now, he pointed out.
“We will put a lot of thought into it and we’ll project where we’re going to end up based on a lot of things we won’t have any control over. It’s going to make our jobs more difficult. I want people to understand that we’re elected to make these tough decisions. Nobody wants to do this, but we need to do it. If we don’t do it, the city will take a big step backwards. That’s the last thing we want to happen.”
If there comes a time the city has to start making budget cuts, quality of life would likely be first to be impacted, then parks, DPW, the swimming pool and hockey rinks would also be affected, the mayor noted.
“That’s the reality of it,” he said. “And then, we’d have to maybe go into payroll and start adjusting that. It’s a slippery slope.”
The local law will be effective immediately upon being approved by the voters of the city at the November 4 general election.