City of Johnstown’s budget shows small tax increase

JOHNSTOWN — The city’s tentative $12.9 million 2019 budget shows a 1.9 percent tax increase, which is below the state’s tax levy cap of 2.5 percent for the city.

Mayor Vern Jackson and city Treasurer Michael Gifford on Oct. 29 released what is known as the “mayor’s budget,” or a tentative budget until it’s adopted later in the year.

“I think it’s fair and equitable,’ Jackson said Tuesday. “We didn’t go overboard. I think we’re right where we want to be.”

Jackson expressed a hope that sales tax continues to rise next year as it has for the last several quarters in the city.

City officials last year adopted a budget for 2018 that also showed a 2 percent tax hike.

The tentative spending plan totals $12.9 million in appropriations for 2019 — lower than the $13.2 million city budget adopted for 2018.

A total of $222,200 would be applied in fund balance to balance the budget.

Gifford said Tuesday that the approximate tax hike is 1.9 percent, which is still below the state tax cap of 2.5 percent. The tentative levy for 2019 will total $5,681,900. He said the property tax rate increase of .25 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation — from $12.63 for 2018 to $12.88 per $1,000 for 2019 — has to do mainly with support of unionized city government personnel.

“It went up because most of what we do is payroll driven,” Gifford said.

He noted the city is still waiting to hear from the state Public Employment Relations Board on finalization of a new Johnstown Police Benevolent Association contract. He also noted that the city’s other two contracts — involving firefighters and Department of Public Works employees — are due to rise by 2.5 percent in 2019 after having been at a zero percent increase for this year.

“Health insurance went up, same as it usually does,” Gifford said.

But the city treasurer said the city’s annual spending plan has benefited from other areas, such as now only a $2,500 expense for the Johnstown Public Library, which will become a school district public library at the start of the year. The city had budgeted about $280,000 for the library for 2018.

A breakdown for expenditures in the tentative 2019 city budget follows: Common Council — $23,100; mayor — $18,800; city treasurer — $306,000; city clerk — $80,900; city assessor — $49,500; elections — $14,700; public health — $5,000; historian — $2,200; city attorney — $103,600; public works — $2,984,700; fire department — $2,096,500; police department — $2,110,400; traffic control — $19,000; animal control — $35,900; program for aging — $159,000; unallocated expenditures — $342,200; debt — $223,300; employee benefits — $4,346,500; and transfers — $2,500.

Adoption of the city’s 2019 budget will come either this month or in December.

The Common Council on Dec. 4, 2017 adopted the city’s $13.2 million 2018 budget — a spending plan that ended up carrying a 2 percent property tax hike. That budget was above the state’s tax cap for the city. The 2018 property tax rate increased from $12.39 per $1,000 to $12.63. The city’s tax levy increased from $5.49 million to $5.67 million for 2018.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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