Council to review tax hike in proposed $27M budget

City Council tonight will tackle a proposed $27 million 2019 budget that includes an increase in real estate taxes.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana has presented the city with a budget showing a $1.5 million deficit. A three-year financial attack plan drafted by the city finance office indicates steadily increasing deficits should there be no changes, according to William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director and architect of the plan.

Among what city officials have termed “catastrophic deficit numbers” in the finance plan is an estimated $7.5 million deficit by 2021, Nichols said.

The proposed budget includes a 0.65 mills property tax hike, Campana said, upset about that because it is the second time in his 12 years in office that he proposed a tax increase.

The proposed tax millage would go from 14.47 mills to 15.37 mills, Campana said.

“There isn’t much else other than bringing in more income, borrowing and drawing on the reserve,” Campana said.

For residents, if nothing changes taxes would be $1,537 a year for a property owner with a house assessed at $100,000, said Nicholas Grimes, city tax collector and treasurer.

Council, as a whole, has expressed how troubled it is starting the year with $1.5 million deficit.

The reserve or savings for the city is just under $107,497 but still accounts for a reduced staff.

Campana doesn’t want to see the jobs cut but had no alternative, he said.

“Nobody is losing their jobs with layoffs,” he said. Seven jobs won’t be filled through attrition.”

The cuts include four on the police, two in codes, and one assistant general manager of streets and parks, who will not be filled as the general manager assumes that role, Campana said. “There are no layoffs,” Campana said. “No one loses their job.”

The concern from a safety and overtime aspect, as previously reported by council, is the police complement of 47. This year, the department was budgeted for a complement of 51. The department experiences fluctuations in its ranks because of retirements, resignations, terminations, military deployments and other factors, according to Chief David J. Young.

How that translates to police overtime and crime prevention has been addressed previously by the outgoing Young who is set to retire on Jan. 12.

Young has said he would rather start the year with more officers but understands the tight budget restraints the administration faces.

In addition to the police department trimming, the city anticipates having to pay more for pensions.

A $500,000 increase in the minimum municipal obligation is estimated for pensions for unions representing police, fire and officer’s and employees, Campana said.

Health care costs also are expected to rise by 7 percent in premiums overall, he said.

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