August 1, 2015

Mayor highlights 2016 general fund budget




Staff Reporter

With the city Common Council set to review the preliminary $15.3 million 2016 general fund budget Tuesday, Mayor Brian Tobin on Friday described what residents can expect to see if his proposal is passed.
If adopted by the council, the city would spend $15,347,628, up 4.3 from the 2015 budget. Revenue is also expected to rise by 4 percent in 2016 to $19,681,289.
The fiscal plan will shoulder taxpayers with a tax levy of $8.2 million, the amount to be raised through property taxes.
The figures in the general fund do not include water and sewer service, which have separate budgets.
Tobin said the proposed budget was designed to begin addressing long-standing problems such as reducing the number of vacant and abandoned homes, or so-called “zombie” properties. For over a year the city has been trying to reduce the number of such properties to increase property values and the appearances of neighborhoods.
Tobin said this is why his proposed budget would allocate $70,000 to begin tackling the issue of zombie properties in the city.
Tobin cited the Budget Inn on the border of the town of Cortlandville and the village of Homer as an example of how easily properties can become a blight and a safety issue if not addressed. The blighted buildings burned in a suspicious fire in April.
He said the council has yet to decide how the $70,000 will be used to address the problem.
“I’m not saying we are taking down a house,” Tobin said. “It’s just an example of what could be done. I’m going to leave it up to council to deal with some of the blight and some of the vacant properties we have.”
Positively Cortland is an initiative Tobin started in October 2014 that asks residents to find ways to show their pride in the city and community and market it to outsiders. As an extension of those efforts, Tobin said there will be funding available for community-building projects in next year’s budget.
A total of $40,000 will be divided evenly among the eight wards and aldermen would be able to use the money to fund events in their wards.
Tobin said there are constantly people in the community looking to hold events or to fund community-based projects. He said instead of putting the money in reserves, it might be better suited going toward city residents with a vision.
“What I wanted to do was give council some money so they can work with people in their neighborhoods to take a little bit of pride in their community,” Tobin said.
Tobin did say there were areas where the city was not able to allocate as much funding as it would have liked. The city is applying for a grant to hire a police officer whereas usually it would pay for such a hire out of the department’s budget. Another grant that funds the fire department’s bunker program may not be extended.
“I wish we could be a little more robust,” Tobin said. “Sometimes we have to make some tough decisions. But we tried to do what’s fair and I’m pleased that we’re keeping each department’s portion of the city’s budget pretty even.”
Tobin said he is expecting the sewer and water department heads to release their respective preliminary budgets within the next couple of weeks, adding he thinks residents will be happy with the choices the city has made.
“We’re investing in things we think people will be proud of when they see the final product,” Tobin said.

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