PLATTSBURGH — The City of Plattsburgh 2020 budget is expected to comply with the state-mandated tax cap.
City Councilor Mike Kelly (D-Ward 2), the Common Council's budget officer, recently gave a 2020 budget preview and said projections, with some minor adjustments, would hit this week's agenda for council approval.
The proposed tax-levy increase is within the state-mandated rate, and also anticipated was a 4.66 percent decrease in the city's mill rate, or the amount of tax paid per $1,000 of assessed property value.
"This, of course, puts us below the tax cap — far below the tax cap," Kelly said.
"We're actually going to reduce taxes. With a healthy, growing fund balance and operation efficiencies, there's no reason that we can't pass on these savings to our taxpayers," he continued.
"That's something to be very excited about. Hopefully our taxpayers will be pleased and it will lower their cost of living slightly."
Mayor Colin Read's budget projections, as presented in August, had estimated a 2020 general fund balance of $1.3 million, or 5.8 percent.
Also estimated was a 2.05 percent increase in tax levy, and a 1.75 percent decrease in the city's tax rate from $12.20 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $11.99.
Read expected his 2020 Mayor's Budget would be tweaked by city councilors in the months following, which they did.
"I hope this allows for more Common Council deliberations and also allows the city to use the early budget as a strategic tool for efficiency gains now, rather than later," he had said in August.
UPPED FUND BALANCE
At the latest council session, Councilor Kelly said he and other council members had met with city department heads to generate cost-saving initiatives.
When all was said and done, the draft 2020 budget estimated the year's expenses at $22,982,431 and its revenues at $23,652,892.
"These numbers are moving targets," Kelly said. "They will change slightly in the final budget. Right now, the surplus we're anticipating is $670,461."
In 2017, the city's fund balance was at $236,074, or 1 percent, and by the end of 2020, the city's fund balance was projected at $1,964,912, or 8.5 percent.
That, Kelly said, would be enough to fund 16 days of City of Plattsburgh operations.
"That's not a long time, but it would certainly get us through any crisis — we hope," he said. "It's something we can be very proud of.
"Our financial discipline has paid off these past few years, even though it has been difficult."
Included in the savings were expected changes to the city's funding of its Rec Complex.
The four facilities — the Crete Memorial Civic Center, Plattsburgh City Beach, Plattsburgh City Marina and the City Recreation Center, or gym — have been in the spotlight lately.
In recent months, city officials announced that the branches weren't only short on revenue, but were in the red financially.
Some community members feared one or more of those facilities would be closed, but the Common Council rallied for upped user fees instead.
At last week's budget preview, Kelly said those increased fees were expected to bring an estimated $347,000 in new 2020 revenue.
"This will reduce the General Fund's contribution to the Rec Complex by about half," Kelly said. "This will shift half the cost of the Rec Complex from taxpayers to users of these facilities.
"We understand, of course, that those two groups overlap," he continued. "We want to continue to support the rec programs with contributions from the General Fund, but the idea is to get users to chip in a little bit more."
At the meeting, the Department of Public Works was said to be readying an attainable road-paving schedule to be featured in the city's 2020 Capital Budget Plan.
"They're paving about three miles of road each year," Kelly said. "That's up from less than one mile in 2016. So, big, big, big improvements over the last three years."
By the time 2020 wrapped up, the department has said the city's streets would be up to date and on track for a predictable paving schedule.
"This brings us in line with expecting to have good streets and fewer potholes for forever, basically," Kelly said. "That's good to know."
The 2020 budget was expected to plan for changes to the city's water/sewer rates, public safety overtime and the new budgeting software OpenGov, as well.
Kelly said the projected 4.66 percent decrease in the city's mill rate would fit well with property tax reassessments from the spring.
"The average for home reassessments was about 4 percent," he said. "We're actually offering a mill rate that's below the rated increase in reassessments.
"Our financial improvements are paying off for our taxpayers and we are able to offer them a lower rate."
The council was expected to vote on the budget changes at their regular session tonight at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall.
Email McKenzie Delisle:
Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the City Common Council will meet tonight in the Council Chambers of City Hall.
The night will start with a Public Safety Committee meeting at 4:30 p.m. and be followed by a council work session at 5 p.m.
The Common Council's regular meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.
All are open to the public.
Meeting agendas can be found at: http://www.cityofplattsburgh.com/AgendaCenter.