Com­mit­tee ad­vances $41.47M city bud­get

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ariél Zangla azangla@free­manon­ Ariel At Free­man on Twit­ter

KINGSTON >> A Com­mon Coun­cil com­mit­tee has for­warded to the full coun­cil a $41.47 mil­lion city bud­get for 2017. The pro­posed spend­ing plan is slightly larger than the one pro­posed by Mayor Steve No­ble.

The bud­get ad­vanced by the Fi­nance and Au­dit Com­mit­tee on Mon­day to­tals $41,467,784, which is $19,437 larger than No­ble’s plan but also ad­justs rev­enue expectations to main­tain the prop­erty tax levy set by the mayor.

The bud­get calls for the 2017 tax levy to be the same as 2016’s, $17,650,940, but res­i­den­tial

and com­mer­cial tax rates are ex­pected to de­crease slightly, thanks, in part, to an in­crease in Kingston’s over­all as­sessed value.

Pro­posed spend­ing in the bud­get is $523,026, or 1.28 per­cent, higher than in 2016.

The bud­get still must be ap­proved by the full coun­cil and signed by the mayor to take ef­fect.

The com­mit­tee on Mon­day also gave ini­tial ap­proval to a shift in the per­cent­age of the prop­erty tax levy paid by res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial prop­er­ties. The pro­posed 20 per­cent shift means res­i­den­tial, or homestead prop­er­ties, would pay about 54.1 per­cent of the over­all prop­erty

tax levy, while com­mer­cial, or non-homestead prop­er­ties, would pay 45.9 per­cent.

The re­sult would be a 2017 res­i­den­tial tax rate of $10.10 per $1,000 of as­sessed prop­erty value, a de­crease of 6 cents, or 0.6 per­cent, from the 2016 level; and a com­mer­cial rate of $18.13 per $1,000, a de­crease of 18 cents, or just un­der 1 per­cent.

City law­mak­ers have held sev­eral spe­cial fi­nance meet­ings over the past month to dis­cuss No­ble’s pro­posed bud­get. Those meet­ings cul­mi­nated with Mon­day night’s ses­sion, which lasted more than four hours.

Part of the dis­cus­sion at Mon­day’s meet­ing fo­cused on slight ad­just­ments to some bud­get lines and off­set­ting those changes by al­ter­ing rev­enue pro­jec­tions.

“Any change that you make is go­ing to af­fect the bud­get,” city Comp­trol­ler John Tuey told the com­mit­tee.

Tuey said that, in gen­eral, the city hits its over­all rev­enue pro­jec­tions.

Alder­woman Maryann Mills, D-Ward 7, made sev­eral sug­ges­tions, in­clud­ing keep an en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tor po­si­tion part-time rather than mak­ing it full­time in 2017. Mills said she was un­clear about grants to fund the po­si­tion.

The fi­nance com­mit­tee, which Mills does not sit on, ul­ti­mately opted to keep the change pro­posed by No­ble, who was an en­vi­ron­men­tal ed­u­ca­tor for the city be­fore be­ing elected mayor a year ago.

Mills also said the city should find money to hire at least a part-time em­ployee to ad­min­is­ter Kingston’s

new as­set man­age­ment sys­tem. She said the city paid for as­set man­age­ment and it would be shame­ful not to move for­ward with it.

Mills sug­gested elim­i­nat­ing raises for some “non­aligned” em­ploy­ees, which was re­jected by the com­mit­tee, or elim­i­nat­ing a new part-time clerk job in the cor­po­ra­tion coun­sel’s of­fice. She also ques­tioned a pro­posed $17,000 raise for Cor­po­ra­tion Coun­sel Kevin Bryant.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Mills said she was op­posed to No­ble’s plan to dou­ble the cost of me­tered on-street park­ing in the city and be­gin charg­ing fees for park­ing in mu­nic­i­pal lots. She also said non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tions that hold fes­ti­vals in Kingston should pay for the city ser­vices they use.

A ma­jor­ity of the com­mit­tee dis­agreed.

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