Press-Republican

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January 12, 2013

City tax levy to rise 5.2 percent

PLATTSBURGH — City of Plattsburgh councilors approved a $53 million budget for 2013, with a 5.2 percent increase in the tax levy, the maximum allowed under the state tax cap.

The increase was 3.3 percent more than Mayor Donald Kasprzak proposed when he submitted his budget to the council last Oct. 1.

QUALITY OF LIFE

“This budget contains a real tax increase that is unfortunate but unavoidable,” Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem James Calnon (I-Ward 4) said.

“But there is certain quality of life in this city that we feel compelled to maintain, and I believe this budget maintains that quality of life,” he said.

“We’re not happy we had to raise taxes, but we feel this is a responsible budget that we could bring forward.”

ARBITRATION AWARD

The tax levy for 2013 is up $303,508. Calnon said $285,700 of that was due to an arbitration award to the City Fire Department union, the Plattsburgh Permanent Firefighters Union, for retroactive pay for the years 2008 and 2009.

The union defended itself, saying that what it had offered the city would have cost less than what the arbitrator awarded late in 2012, after the mayor’s budget proposal.

Calnon said he was not blaming the union but just pointing out the fact that the city had to come up with the money.

The arbitration award was not discussed at Thursday night’s meeting.

RATE INCREASES

The city also had to deal with rising costs this year for the State Retirement Fund and health-insurance costs.

The budget also includes slight increases in garbage-collection and water rates.

The tax rate for 2013 will go from $10.40 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $10.76.

With assessments increasing about 2 percent on average this year, the owner of a house whose assessment went from $125,000 to $127,000 will pay about $65 more in taxes.

LOWEST POSSIBLE

Councilor Mark Tiffer (D-Ward 2) said he agreed with Calnon that it is important to take quality of life into account.

“That’s a big reason why people live in the city,” he said.

“We found some inefficiencies and some excess spending, but we were able to revise a budget to the lowest level we could without inhibiting services. I am proud of this budget.”

The spending plan was unanimously approved.

Email Joe LoTemplio: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com

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