Saratoga Springs City Council approves 2013 budget with no tax increase

Monday, November 5, 2012
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— The City Council on Monday night approved a $39.8 million comprehensive budget for 2013, featuring a $2.3 million spending increase but no tax increase.

A home assessed at $200,000 will pay $1,204 in city taxes next year in the inside district and $1,188 in the outside district. Both of those totals are slightly less than this year’s taxes and are based on a 2013 tax rate of $6.02 per $1,000 in the inside district and $5.94 in the outside district.

City Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan, the city’s chief budget officer, on Monday outlined amendments made in her original spending plan during five workshop meetings over the past month.

The City Council voted 3-2 along party lines to approve the budget, with Mayor Scott Johnson and Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco, both Republicans, voting against the budget.

Scirocco protested that his 2013 funding request for labor was cut. Madigan countered that Scirocco’s total budget for 2013 was increased by almost $400,000. Scirocco noted that the increase was for equipment and truck replacements, not for labor.

Johnson said he was voting against the budget for procedural reasons — Madigan changed her agenda item for the City Council meeting Monday morning from a budget discussion to budget approval.

He also said the Public Safety Department budget increased by more than $1 million, including spending for two new firefighters, two new police officers and a new dispatcher.

“It’s not a prudent thing to do at this time,” he said about the big increase.

The major increases in the budget come from mandated increases in costs such as wages, benefits, retirement contributions, insurance premiums and utility bills.

The budget includes spending for essential services and planning for the future, Madigan said.

Essential city services had been shaved to critical levels since the Great Recession, Madigan said when she presented her budget in early October.

The city has an excess fund balance of $1.5 million. She set aside $550,000 of the surplus in a tax stabilization reserve in event the city does not receive its state revenue sharing money associated with the video lottery terminals at the Saratoga Casino and Raceway. A total of $1.49 million in VLT revenue, a state estimate, has been included in the 2013 budget.

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