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Saratoga Springs council OKs budget with small tax hike

Monday, November 4, 2013
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— The Saratoga Springs City Council waxed nostalgically about a zero percent tax increase on Monday night before approving a budget for next year with an average rate increase of 0.76 percent.

There weren’t many changes to the budget proposed on Oct. 1 by Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan.

General fund spending in the approved budget is $40.44 million, an increase of more than half a million dollars from this year.

The impact of the tax increase is about $16 extra a year on a house assessed at $350,000, Madigan said on Monday night.

One of the major concerns of Madigan while crafting the budget was the looming city employee contracts that could end up spiking expenses next year, based on a $500,000 cost increase this year when two contracts were settled. She felt the approved budget, which strengthened reserve funds, left the city in a position where it wouldn’t be caught by surprise.

To help contain costs in the budget, Madigan imposed spending cuts in discretionary spending for each department — which is about all that could be cut. About 90 percent of the budget’s spending goes toward mandated expenses, essential services and equipment purchases.

The budget relies on about $10.5 million in sales tax revenue, a $50,000 increase from the proposed budget, but still a modest and attainable growth, according to Madigan. Revenue from building permits, which has generated more than $300,000 year-to-date, also went up from the proposed budget, with the approved budget predicting $235,000 from this source.

None of Mayor Scott Johnson’s spending increases, including $12,000 to give the city attorney a raise, or Public Works Commissioner Skip Scirocco’s increases, were approved. Despite not getting their additional requests, both men endorsed the budget on Monday.

The capital projects budget includes $192,000 of bonding for some type of medical facility or fire station on the east side. Last year, the council authorized $200,000 for this project, which was initially conceived as a medical facility. The funds could be used for a third fire station, although the council hasn’t agreed on that.

Removed from the capital projects budget was a $572,000 evidence and records facility for the Police Department.

The City Council hosted six public workshops after introducing their budget.

 
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