Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read has released his proposed 2019 fiscal budget for the Clinton County city. The mayor says it enhances the city’s financial stability while staying within New York state’s tax cap.
Standing on the steps of City Hall and surrounded by charts, the economist by trade outlined his $59.4 million 2019 spending plan for the city. Mayor Read pointed to one issue in particular – tax rates among cities across New York state. “This is actually a chart of the tax rates and tax burdens for northern cities in New York state. We’ve got the second highest tax burden of them all property tax burden of them all. We need to moderate that and we have been. The council set upon a five and ten year plan of very modest and small tax increases because we really believe we can’t afford to tax our way out of some of these challenges. The next chart shows that our we have a tendency towards declining property tax base in the city and increasing property tax rates. We have to get those two graphs aligned.”
Read says he is not daunted by challenges facing the city. While he says the 2018 budget was difficult, it put the city on a better foundation and he believes his 2019 plan would further stabilize the city’s fiscal base by meeting four targets set by the City Council. “We met and exceeded their expectations for revenues without having to raise taxes at an amount higher than the rate of inflation. We increased the fund balance that they were hoping that we could eke out to try to reverse that trend of negative or tiny fund balances. We’re starting to turn the corner there too. Our expenditures are lower than they targeted and so that gives them a little bit of leeway to still meet their expenditure target and come up with some capital improvements they’d like to see to continue on with the road building strategy we’ve been doing this year.”
The 2019 budget as proposed by Mayor Read is under the New York tax cap. “We’re under the state cap. Our tax rate for next year on a mill rate base is 11.99 I think $11.99 which works out to a 1.199 percent tax raise. And then there’s also a slight growth in property tax base of point-five-four percent.”
The city’s five-year budget plan calls for $650,000 in permanent cuts and $65,000 in temporary reductions. Read credits department heads for meeting those goals. “They worked incredibly hard. I gave them a target if they could all come up with about 3 percent of cuts then we could make that $650,000 goal. And they did it. So I’m very impressed that they could do that without laying people off either. Now we have lost just some people from attrition.”
The proposed fiscal plan now goes to the City Council for consideration. Ward 2 Democrat Mike Kelly, the council’s budget officer, notes there have been informal discussions with department heads and the mayor throughout the process. “We started out with a set of assumptions about what we wanted for the taxpayers of the city and set up goals to address those assumptions. We did it this year, 2018, and it appears as though we’re going to be able to do it again in 2019 as well. So that makes me optimistic that the plan we have is working and I’d like to optimistically say it’s a good plan. We’re looking at increased revenue, lowered expenses. We’re looking at a higher fund balance year over year for the next several years. So we’re on the upswing now.”
A public hearing on the spending plan is scheduled for September 13th at 5 p.m. in City Council chambers.