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Budget proposal may require work to hold the tax line

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, whose third term is expiring in just over a month, recently presented City Council with his final budget proposal.

The $27.9 million draft budget holds the line on real estate taxes, similar to other proposals the mayor made in the past 11 years. But those proposals did not always end up being approved by City Council as presented. Unhappy with projections in at least six of those years, City Council members rolled up their sleeves, made changes and ultimately passed budgets that included annual hikes in real estate taxes.

Will this year be any different?

Mayor Campana certainly hopes so.

“This is my last budget and I am proud to state that, on my way out, I am giving taxpayers a break with a no-tax-increase budget,” he told council, promising more city services. His proposal includes funding for two more police officers and a third-shift street sweeper who also will monitor Grafius Run during rains in an effort to avert flooding.

But proposed spending is up by 3.45 percent, well above the 1.8-percent rate of inflation.

This was revealed two days before the council meeting, when Mayor Campana released city department budget requests that are nearly $828,000 more than this year’s expenses.

Meanwhile, Mayor-elect Derek Slaughter, who campaigned as a fiscal conservative, declined to participate in the mayor’s final budget preparation and said he will examine the proposed budget as a councilman. As such, he will have the opportunity to propose changes to the spending plan before its adoption. He also has the option to reopen the budget in January, under third class city code.

We will watch with great interest as the budget process takes place. City Council has two budget work sessions this week, at 7 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, and two regular meetings at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Dec. 12 when adoption votes may take place.

Will the taxpayers catch a break this year?

We would like to see that happen, but we’re dubious because of all of the fixed and rising costs the city faces.

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