November 30, 2011


City decides against adding jobs in 2012

Savings from maintenance position will cut tax bill by $1; assistant attorney will remain contractual

Staff Reporter

The city plans to use money from a proposed position that was cut from the 2012 budget to lower the tax levy by about $19,000.
Mack Cook, the city’s director of administration and finance, said the move would reduce taxpayers’ bills by about $1 but has not yet calculated what the change would do to the city’s expected tax rate of $15.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Both the city Youth Bureau and the Department of Public Works had asked for an additional employee to be included in the 2012 budget. The Common Council decided two weeks ago that the two departments would share a worker who would handle pool and maintenance for the Youth Bureau in the summer and snow plowing in the winter.
Mayor Susan Feiszli said the suggestion to lower the tax levy came from the city’s finance advisory committee. It is intended to show city taxpayers the council is looking for ways to reduce the tax burden, she said.
The new tax levy would be $7,813,434.
The city Common Council heard feedback on the 2012 proposed budget from a couple of city residents during a public hearing Tuesday. The council had a work session after the hearing as it continues to look at the budget.
The council has until the end of December to pass the budget for next year.
During the public hearing, John Bennett, who will replace mayor-elect Brian Tobin as 4th Ward alderman, said he worried the city budget relied too heavily on sales tax to cover a 5 percent increase in total spending. The proposed budget is $18,222,961.
“The sales tax in 2011 has been excellent,” Bennett said. “But does anybody know what it’s going to be in 2012?”
Cook said he believed the sales tax projections are reasonable and conservative. The city budgeted $4.2 million in sales tax receipts in 2011, but Cook said the city is expected to receive more in sales tax in 2011 than it is budgeting for in 2012.
The city is banking on about $4.7 million in sales tax revenue in 2012.
Cortland resident Sharon Stevans spoke during the meeting and said she did not want to see a permanent assistant city attorney included in the budget. She said she would like to see the city hire outside attorneys on an “as-needed” basis.
The city placed about $68,000 from the legal department budget into a contingency fund. Cook said the move means that the assistant city attorney position will remain a contractual position instead of a permanent one.
The $68,000 in contingency will be earmarked for legal fees, Cook said. Next year, the city will begin another round of labor negotiations with the police, fire and public works unions as their contracts expire at the end of 2012.
Alderman Dan Quail (R-5th Ward) said the city will need to look at making some big changes in the years to come to cover rising costs. He pointed to costs in police and fire retirement benefits. The city is budgeting $1,297,970 for police and fire retirement benefits, up from $1,095,000 in 2011 and $941,000 in 2010.
“We need a sense of urgency to evaluate our costs,” Quail said after the meeting.
Total employee benefits for the city will be $5,566,268, a $342,014 or 6.5 percent increase from this year.


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