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The Times
  • Little Falls city budget raises property taxes 3.1 percent

  • The Little Falls Common Council is expected to vote Tuesday evening on a 2013 budget that would increase property taxes by 3.1 percent.

    If adopted as presented, the 2013 tax rate will be $95.02 per thousand of assessed valuation, a $2.90 increase from the 2012 tax rate of $92.12 per thousand.

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  • The Little Falls Common Council is expected to vote Tuesday evening on a 2013 budget that would increase property taxes by 3.1 percent.
    If adopted as presented, the 2013 tax rate will be $95.02 per thousand of assessed valuation, a $2.90 increase from the 2012 tax rate of $92.12 per thousand.
    “Even though the tax rate is up 3.1 percent, overall the budget is within the state mandated two percent tax cap,” city Treasurer David Petkovsek said Thursday afternoon. “The total amount to be raised by taxes is $3,023,238, which puts the budget roughly $25,000 under the two percent tax levy cap. It’s a little confusing because the tax rate increase is higher than two percent, but the budget itself is under two percent.”
    The proposed tax rate increase is $0.95 more than the tax rate of $94.07 per thousand that was included in the budget discussed during Wednesday evening’s public hearing.
    That proposal was modified to restore $40,000 in cuts to the police and fire departments, with each receiving an additional $20,000 in their personal services line items.
    “It was a situation where the police and fire chief were asked to each cut $20,000 out of their budgets, and they did, only to find out another $20,000 had been cut,” Fourth Ward Alderman Richard Congdon said during Wednesday evening’s public hearing. “The police department has been making concessions since 1997. Eventually something has to give, because the city can only cut and take back so much until it compromises the department’s ability to keep the public safe. The same goes for the fire department.”
    “Where are we going to be if the departments run out of money in November and we have to layoff police officers and send firemen home? Are we going to cross our fingers and hope a fire or crime doesn’t break out? These cuts have set us up for disaster,” First Ward Alderman Ronald Petrie said during Wednesday evening’s public hearing.
    The $40,000 that was restored to the police and fire department budgets includes a shift of $10,000 from the refuse collection line item, which had been budgeted at $130,000.
    “The actual cost to the city in 2012 for refuse collection was $119,723.50, and with the Oneida – Herkimer Solid Waste Authority notifying us it will cost $2 less per ton for disposal fees in the coming year, it makes sense to shift money from that account to police and fire accounts,” Mayor Robert Peters said Wednesday evening.
    Had the $10,000 not been shifted from the refuse collection line item, Petkovsek said the proposed tax rate increase would have been $3.21 per thousand.
    “It’s a tight budget,” Pekovsek said Thursday afternoon. “There are no equipment purchases of any kind and the biggest increases are contractual increases, increases in insurance and workers’ compensation and increases in retirement system contributions.”
    Total general fund appropriations are $5,907,643.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I would have liked to have had more input on the budget,” Petrie said Wednesday evening. “This year’s budget process was different from last year’s, where it seemed everyone was on the same page and was able to have input. It wasn’t like that this year.”
    First Ward Alderman Jeffrey Gressler agreed.
    “This year’s budget process seemed a little dysfunctional when compared to last year’s,” he said Wednesday evening. “Last year all eight Common Council members were able to be part of the process from the start, and I believe because of that each council member had a better understanding of the decisions that were being made.”
    Peters said the dysfunction could partially be attributed to the short timeframe to develop the budget. “We had two weeks to develop the budget,” he said Wednesday evening. “The topic that was everyone’s mind was the YMCA lawsuit. The budget was put on hold until the lawsuit was resolved. It had an effect on the budget process.”
    “The lawsuit may have had some impact on the budget process, but there were other factors as well,” said Gressler. “With the belt tightening that needs to be done in preparation for the 2014 budget, I hope everyone will once again be on the same page.”
    Tuesday evening’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Common Council Chambers at City Hall. A public hearing that had been scheduled for 6 p.m. on a possible override of the state mandated two percent tax cap has been canceled.

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