Budget raises tax rate

JOHNSTOWN – City Mayor Sarah Slingerland has released a tentative 2014 budget that includes a nearly 2.8 percent tax-rate increase.

The $11.7 million budget proposal is up 6 percent, or $668,100, over this year’s budget.

The cost increases in the budget include pensions, up $27,000; health insurance, up $88,000; and and workers’ compensation insurance, up $112,000.

Another cost increase comes from the debt service for the new bridge on North Perry Street, which was rebuilt and finished in August. According to the budget summary, this increased the budget by nearly $250,000.

Other costs, mostly for payroll, are up $182,400, according to a budget summary.

Slingerland, who released her budget at Monday’s Common Council meeting, said the increases to pensions and health insurance were expected, but the cost for workers’ compensation reflects changes made by the Fulton County Board of Supervisors. The county board this year decided to shift the workers’ compensation cost burden to the municipalities within the county starting next year.

“I’m not complaining about it, that is just the impact,” Slingerland said of the city’s workers’ comp costs.

Slingerland said the budget includes no cuts in services and no layoffs.

The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed property value would go from $17.49 in 2013 to $17.98 for 2014, an increase of 2.8 percent. Slingerland said this would stay under the city’s state-set property-tax cap. The budget proposal would increase the property-tax levy – the amount of money raised by property taxes – by $44,100, or 0.9 percent.

Slingerland said over 10 years, the city tax rate has increased by 70 cents per $1,000.

“That is spectacular, I think,” Slingerland said.

According to the budget summary, the tax rate was $17.28 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2004.

Johnstown 3rd Ward Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Helen Martin said Wednesday she only has briefly reviewed the budget since it was released Monday, but she found what she read to be acceptable.

“At first glance, I was comfortable with the budget,” Martin said. “It works right in and keeps in line with previous budgets.”

Martin said she did not expect any major changes to the budget going forward.

First Ward Councilwoman Cynthia Lakata said she did not think the public would have concerns about this budget.

“I think that people would rather have the budget go up a little bit every year than have to hold the line and have an unexpected expense and have a large increase in one year,” Lakata said. “I think the city has done a good job managing its finances.”

Slingerland said a public budget hearing is scheduled for Nov. 4.

A council vote is expected by Dec. 2, according to Slingerland.

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