Fulton’s proposed 2012 budget spends $160,000 less than this year’s budget, but will require a small tax levy increase.
The 1.17% increase in the tax rate means that a home assessed at $50,000 will pay about $9.50 more. The rate increases 19 cents, to $16.53 per thousand of assessed value.
“We’re into some tough times,” said Mayor Ron Woodward. “Stuff rolls downhill and we’re at the bottom.”
Woodward and the Common Council started planning for the budget with a spending increase of about $800,000 to hold all programs and services at current levels. That would have required a tax levy increase of more than 9%.
The added spending came in three areas over which the city has no control:
- Health insurance costs for employees, which rose $388,000;
- State-mandated increases in the city’s contribution to its employees’ pension fund, which rose more than $210,000;
- Another $33,000 cut in state aid without changing any state-mandated programs;
- And the loss of $8.7 million in the city’s tax base, primarily due to lower negotiated or court-ordered property values for major taxpaying properties such as the hydropower dams and Cayuga Community College. The tax base shrinkage will remove $144,000 from the city’s revenues.
Woodward proposed broad cuts in city spending. Out of 64 broad categories in the budget, 52 will either absorb cuts or stay the same. Some of the cuts are big ones:
- A cut of $80,000 in the city’s contribution to the Fulton Public Library, to $100,000;
- Elimination of the entire $145,000 annual payment to Fulton’s private Menter Ambulance Service;
- No new equipment will be budgeted for purchase in 2012;
- Three more positions will be eliminated, on top of the 17 jobs that have been cut in the last few years. Two other positions in the city fire department will not be filled when they become vacant.
Woodward said he explained the cuts to the library’s leadership and to the owners of Menter Ambulance.
The Menter cut means that city residents will no longer receive priority attention for an ambulance, Woodward said. Fulton is the last local government paying for priority, he said, and residents are unlikely to notice any difference in response times.
One other change might be a little more noticeable. Woodward told Councilors he does not intend to have crews repair sidewalks next summer. Each summer, crews repair stretches of damaged sidewalk.
“I’m gonna focus that group (of public works workers) just on storm drains and pump stations,” Woodward said.
He believes that will reduce overtime costs. “It will help flooding in basements and backyards if we do that,” added Councilor Dan Knopp.
Councilors will hold a public hearing on the budget and then vote to adopt it Tuesday, Dec. 27.
“You did a hell of a job here,” Alderman Tom Kenyon said to Woodward. “I didn’t think you could get it down that much.”