On Oct. 12 Mayor Sam Teresi presented a $35.7 million spending plan that included a 0.88 percent property tax increase and also a deficit of $947,000. Since then, the council has been meeting with department heads to learn more about specific areas of the budget.
This week the council reviewed the Administrative Services budget, which includes the city clerk’s office. Last week the council reviewed the tentative budgets for the DPW and Parks and Recreation Departments. Next Monday (Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m.) the council will review the city Public Safety Department (Fire and Police) budget.
Once all areas of the budget are reviewed, the council will be faced with the difficult task of identifying ways to close the budget gap. The option of raising the tax rate higher than that proposed amount is out of the question because the city has reached its constitutional taxing limit. And while the city did receive additional state aid to help offset this year’s budget gap, there’s no guarantee additional money will again come forward from Albany in 2018.
Following Monday night’s city council meeting, President Greg Rabb admitted there may not be much the council can do.
“Every year it gets more challenging, but we’re up to the challenge and as the mayor often says, it’s not the mayor, it’s not individual council members, it’s the ten of us who are going to make these decisions along with all the advice we get from our staff. So we’re all in this together and we can solve it together,” Rabb said. “But is it more challenging than when I started back in 2008? Yeah, every year it gets more challenging.”
This is an election year for council members and Rabb said he’s been out campaigning the past several weeks and whenever the budget comes up during his talk with constituents, he finds that most of the time they are understanding of the city’s challenges.
“Those are two different issues. When I’m out on the street campaigning it’s trying to convince people that they should put me back in office, but I think I can speak for all of us when we get back in the building, it’s how to we balance this budget and has nothing to do with the election,” Rabb said. “Does it have an effect? Sure. And some of the constituents have talked to me about some of the items in the budget, occasionally about the library, but I haven’t heard too much about the budget itself. What they do say to me sometimes is they appreciate the fact we are facing a very difficult challenge and they realize we are working as hard as we can with the mayor to address the challenge.”
As part of the 2018 executive budget, funding for the James Prendergast Library has been cut by $50,000, compared to the $100,000 it received from the city for the current budget year.
The city council hold a budget hearing on Monday, Nov. 13, where residents are invited to offer their thoughts on the spending plan. That same evening the council will meet with representatives from the Prendergast Library to learn more about its own budget challenges, which come as a result of reduced community donations combined with reduced aid from the city.
The budget must be amended and approved by the council by Dec. 1, otherwise the budget presented by the mayor is the one that will go into effect for next year.