Johnstown budget plan carries 1.5 percent property tax increase
JOHNSTOWN The city of Johnstown’s tentative $11 million budget for 2013 would increase property taxes by approximately $26 for a homeowner with a house assessed at $100,000.
This translates into a 1.5 percent increase, equal to 26 cents, bringing the tax rate to $17.49 per $1,000 assessed value. Under this plan, the total tax bill on a $100,000 house would be $1,749.
The budget carries a tax levy increase of 4.60 percent, to $4.7 million, which is slightly below the state imposed cap. The city’s tax rate has remained relatively stable going back to 2004, when it was $17.28 per $1,000 assessed value.
Johnstown’s total property value increased by $8 million in 2012, to $270 million, so the tax rate need not increase as muchas the levy does.
The City Council will conduct a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday. The council could adopt the budget as soon as that night; it must adopt a budget by early December. The city’s fiscal year begins Jan. 1.
City Treasurer Michael Gifford said the tentative budget contains no layoffs and is basically a status-quo spending plan.
The city is using two one-shot revenue sources in 2013 to balance the budget: $114,600 from the tax reserve fund and $121,600 from the debt reserve fund.
Gifford said the tax reserve fund was set up last year by the city in anticipation of exceeding the tax cap for the current budget. It must now spend down this money. The tax reserve contains surplus from a serial bond the city took out for projects. This also must be spent down.
The fund balance amount used for the 2013 budget is about half of what the city used in the current budget. After this budget, the city will have about $1.1 million in its fund balance, Gifford said.
The city may be looking at a revenue gap of more than $300,000 going into 2014 as a result of the one-shot revenues and use of the fund balance. Gifford said that he does not know what next year will bring, however. “Long-term revenue streams are always a concern,” he said.
The $11 million budget contains $503,200 in new expenditures, a 4.8 percent increase over the current year budget. The increase includes $245,000 for the city’s Rail Trail project, of which 80 percent is from a grant; $102,300 in added pension costs; $56,000 in added health insurance costs; and $99,000 for “all other” costs. Gifford said the $99,000 represents raises of 2 percent to employees who are not members of bargaining units and also the projected raises for staff in bargaining units. The city’s contract with the CSEA expires in 2013; the contract with the firefighters union expires at the end of this year; its contract with the police union expired in 2009.