Council members say 'modest' property tax increase necessary
Councilman Bill Cox called the proposed 2011/12 city budget a work of art.
Council members Patti Pacino, Kathy Briggs and Frank Ferrando all congratulated the city manager and his staff for presenting a budget proposal that retains current city services and protects cash reserves at a time when pension costs are skyrocketing and sales-tax revenue is down.
The council then approved a resolution adopting a revenue plan totalling $5,578,355 with a 1.39-percent property-tax increase, down from the original proposal of a 1.59-percent increase.
The new increase is less than $12 per year for a home assessed at $80,000.
"I'm afraid if we reduced (the tax increase) it would come at the expense of our reserves," said Cox. "I think we need to continue to build our reserves and this is just a modest increase."
Councilman Bob Bialkowski also spoke in favor of protecting reserves, especially in a time when major cities and the state of New York itself are facing severe financial distress.
Members Rosemary Christian and Sam Barone said they would like to see a zero-percent increase, but Council President Marianne Clattenburg said that anybody who wants to see zero should suggest how they would reduce spending without threatening the reserves or eliminating staff or services.
"If we go to zero, what we're talking about are staff cuts and cuts in services," Clattenburg said. "We're talking about the possibility of getting rid of a police officer -- I mean, we're talking about cutting into the bones of what the infrastructure of the city is."
The proposed budget also calls for water-rate hikes that will add about $13 a year to the typical residential bill.
Before the vote on the revenue resolution, Cox called on the council to give City Manager Jason Molino a round of applause for his work on the budget, and all the council members joined in.
The city council set the public hearing on the proposed budget for 7 p.m., Feb. 14.