Hopefully, mayor’s no-tax-hike plan meets city’s needs

Williamsport Mayor Gabriel J. Campana says he is planning to submit to City Council a proposed 2018 city budget that includes no tax increase.

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

It’s a preliminary budget of $25 million, with salaries and benefits, such as pension payments, making up 70 percent of it. That percentage underscores how little wiggle room there is in the annual city budget.

The mayor points to a couple decisions as sources of a little more flexibility. He says the recent redemption of existing bonds and refinancing of city debt will save the city $1 million over 20 years. Health care costs are lower because of a decision six years ago to join a health care cooperative.

Additionally, the city reached an agreement with a bank for naming rights to Bowman Field, which adds $35,000 in annual income.

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

Williamsport residents, whose tax burden has been increased on multiple fronts in recent years, hope so, too.

But City Council has an obligation to examinie the budget line item by line item and make sure it can realistically carry the city of Williamsport through 2018. Council’s mission is to approve a responsible budget, not to do what is politically expedient.

The budgets approved by council the past two years that the mayor did not support were, in council’s view, necessary to cover the city’s obligation to provide necessary services to residents.

Everyone should share wishes that the mayor’s no-tax-increase proposal works for the city of Williamsport in 2018. It’s council’s job to make sure it does.

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