City preliminary budget does not increase taxes

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said he plans to present a preliminary budget to City Council that holds the line on a property tax hike.

“Our residents can’t afford another tax increase,” he said this week.

“Taxpayers have seen increases of about 3 mills in tax over the past two years for budgets I did not support,” he said.

“I believe the budget proposal will be among the more positive in the nine years of the Campana administration,” said William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director.

The preliminary budget is about $25 million. Salaries and benefits, such as pension payments, make up about 70 percent, Campana said.

“I believe our wise investments will prove valuable to taxpayers,” he said.

Asked what he meant, Campana said the recent redemption of existing bonds and refinancing of city debt with a large bond will save $1 million over 20 years.

Pensions are expected to increase by $82,000 but the city has a strong team working on that, including council, he said.

Health care costs are lower because of the decision years ago to join a health care cooperative, Benecon, Campana said.

“Instead of double-digit premium increases, we see increases of 10 percent,” he said.

The preliminary budget builds in a full-time communications specialist to assist with media and interoffice work. The employee will double as a part of economic development pursuits, Campana said.

A developer has eyed the city for a $10 million project, Campana said. “The announcement may come before the year is out.”

The city forged an agreement with a bank to produce revenue through naming rights at Bowman Field. That adds $35,000 in income for each year in 2019 and 2020, he said.

“I’d say our budget looks favorable and would hope the council believes it to be so,” he said.

Council receives the mayor’s preliminary budget and reviews it over the holidays. It returns to council chambers to hold two budget work sessions, one at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 and another 7 p.m. Nov. 29.

It holds a first reading of the proposed budget Dec. 7 and typically adopts it a week later.