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Watervliet Faces Potential Double-Digit Tax Increase

As municipalities finalize their 2018 budgets, one Albany County city is facing a potential double-digit tax increase. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

The City of Watervliet is facing a fiscal year 2018 budget that carries a 19.2 percent tax increase. Mayor Mike Manning says it’s been at least a decade since the city of about 10,000 has seen a double digit increase.

Manning said that an adjustment is needed after years of tax increases under the two percent property tax cap.

“And for some communities the tax cap keeps the taxes artificially low and you wind up with a series of very low tax increases and then the need to do a major  tax increase to stabilize the financial situation,” said Manning.

Manning, a Democrat, said the city’s reserve and general funds have been drained in recent years. As proposed, the plan would increase property taxes by $250 on the average home valued at $120,000.

“Even with a 19 percent increase, we’ll still be one of the lowest tax rates in the area,” said Manning.

But, he acknowledges the residents are not happy with the number.

Based on financial reports from 2016, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli designated Watervliet, as well as Albany, with “significant fiscal stress.”

Charles Patricelli, one two city councilors, said Watervleit cannot keep up with rising costs associated with contracted workers.

“The biggest problem we have is our contractual expenses,” said Patricelli. “We’ve been negotiating contracts and basically, I can honestly say and freely say, giving away the store.”

Patricelli, who has been on the council for about a year, said the city is stretched thin already.

“You know, we’ve been cutting staff. At one point last year we had absolutely nobody in the city garage because they were either on vacation. We have only a staff of two.”

Looking at the numbers on Thursday, Patricelli, a Democrat, said he believed he could further cut costs to bring the tax increase to 11 of 12 percent.

Mayor Manning said the city is taking feedback from a recent public hearing and will attempt to decrease the tax rate.

But he also points out that if the city takes a tax increase now it will put off any future spikes.

“If we do this now, then we won’t need to do this again for, hopefully, another ten years, which is when the natural wear-down process seems to take effect,” said Manning.

The budget is scheduled to be considered at the next city council meeting December 21st. It will also mark the first official meeting for recently elected city councilor Frank McGrouty.

McGrouty fills a vacancy on the three-member council that includes the mayor.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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