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October 3, 2012

City budget for 2013 comes in under cap

PLATTSBURGH — The proposed City of Plattsburgh budget for 2013 appears palatable for taxpayers, but the future looks grim, the mayor says.

“Very simply, the taxpayers of this community are the top priority, and if we are going to continue with affordable tax rates in the future, we will need help from everybody involved,” said Mayor Donald Kasprzak, who released his budget proposal on Oct. 1, as per the City Charter requirement.

LEVY UP 1.9  PERCENT

His plan shows a tax-levy increase of 1.93 percent. The tax rate will stay the same as the 2012 rate of $10.40 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The tax levy is the difference between the government’s total expenses and total revenues, the remainder having to be raised by property taxes. Tax bills fluctuate with assessments, so the levy is usually the better determinant of individual tax bills.

There are no planned increases for utility rates in 2013.

RISING COSTS

Drastic increases in pension costs for retired employees and employee health-care premiums were once again a problem for the city.

The 2013 obligation for pension payments is $3,462,280. In 2009, it was $1.2 million, and in 2000, the city paid just $17,700.

Health-care costs are expected to go up about 6.5 percent from $6.3 million for 2012 to about $6.7 million for 2013.

“If the retirement and health-care costs continue to increase and we have no meaningful reform from Albany, we will most likely use the rest of our fund balance, and there could be significant tax and utility increases next year,” Kasprzak said.

FUND BALANCE HIT

To deal with the rising costs this year, Kasprzak used about $2 million of the city’s $4 million fund balance. He also took about $100,000 out of the $350,000 contingency fund.

Overtime pay for most departments was cut sharply, but no layoffs are projected.

“There is no question, however, that foreseeable budgets beginning in 2014 will include substantial tax and utility increases due to the rising costs I previously mentioned (pension and health care),” Kasprzak said.

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