PLATTSBURGH — The City of Plattsburgh unanimously OK'd a $59.6 million budget for next year and its tax levy was expected to come in under the state-mandated tax cap.
That exact figure, however, was not available as of the Common Council's Thursday night vote.
City Chamberlain Richard Marks said the city's tax levy would be determined once Clinton County finalized its budget at the end of December.
But, City Councilor Mike Kelly (D-Ward 2) said, the figure was anticipated to sit "far below" the state's tax cap.
That cap had been set at about negative 1.9 percent, he added.
RETURN THE SAVINGS
As the council's budget officer, Kelly said the negative tax cap was a product of the year's housing reassessments, which had averaged at about a 4 percent increase citywide.
"The council knew that we had to have a negative tax levy," he said, "but we were actually able to go down to about minus 4.6 percent."
Had the city kept its tax levy at the negative 1.9 percent, in line with its tax cap, the city could have generated a nearly $1.2 million surplus in 2020, Kelly said.
But, he added, the Common Council didn't take that route.
"We're already on a pretty solid trajectory to build our fund balance," Kelly said. "There's no reason not to return some of those savings to the taxpayers."
Mayor Colin Read had released his 2020 Mayor's Budget back in August.
Those budget projections were to be used as an outline for the city's councilors and department heads when making fiscal decisions for the new year.
Since, the city councilors, assigned to various committees, have met with their respective department heads to talk financial strategies and discover cost-saving initiatives.
In finding those savings, city officials have discussed the monetary impacts of various initiatives, such as reducing public safety overtime, upping Rec Complex fees and changing the city's water/sewer rate schedule.
At a recent council session, City Environmental Manager Jon Ruff said his department had begun discussions surrounding some soon-to-expire water/sewer contracts with major city users.
"The water fund is operating in the red to the tune of about $600,000 per year," Ruff had told city councilors. "We see the possibility at this point for slight decreases for small residential users.
"That's pretty exciting. I'm sure our ratepayers will appreciate that."
To make up for the fund's deficit, Ruff said, an impact demand charge would be implemented on the city's larger users.
"It would be a fixed fee based on the size of a user's service," he said. "The larger the service, the more that they pay."
In approving the 2020 budget, the city also OK'd that year's Special Benefit and Assessment District collections.
Property owners within the district's limits pay fees based on their building's square footage, and that cash collects in the city's Parking Fund.
Local, state and federal government properties, as well as churches, are all exempt from the tax.
The money collected then funds basic maintenance, snow and ice control and utilities for city-owned parking lots.
With a downtown paid-parking system coming down the pipe, there has been talk of eliminating that district, but, without a solid proposal, the city's 2020 budget did not plan for that.
That suggestion was expected to come by way of the Plattsburgh Parking Advisory Committee, which will host its next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall.
At last week's council session, the 2020 draft budget had estimated the year's expenses at about $22.98 million, with revenues sitting around $23.65 million.
Those figures planned for a more than $670,000 surplus, expecting to raise the city's fund balance to just over $1.96 million, or 8.5 percent.
"We hashed out all of the changes — the increases, the decreases — that we'd like to see this year," Kelly said. "I would say it's going to be a great year, financially.
"I'm looking forward to it. That's all I can say. I'm really looking forward to next year."
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