Plattsburgh’s mayor and common council held a public hearing last night on the mayor’s proposed 2019 city budget. But no one commented on the $59 million fiscal plan.
On September 4th Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read outlined his $59.4 million 2019 fiscal plan for the city and officially released it to the public and common council for consideration. At the time, the first-term mayor said the plan, which is under the state tax cap, further stabilizes the city’s fiscal base. City officials held a hearing Thursday for public comment but no one spoke on the fiscal plan.
Ward 2 Democrat Mike Kelly is the council’s budget officer. He hopes the lack of comments is a good sign. “I hope it says that the public trusts us to do a good job and to use their treasury wisely. This is the first year in several that we’ve been able to present a budget that comes in under the tax cap so I believe the public is looking for us to honor that commitment to them: keep that budget below the state mandated tax cap and then to use that money wisely over the years so that we continue to build the city’s fund balance.”
At the end of the regular Common Council session, during closing public comments, city resident Ira Barbell did step up to discuss non-fiscal aspects of the budget proposal. “I took a look at the budget that you have on line. Frankly I’m not familiar with all the abbreviations that you have on these lines so it makes it difficult for a lay person to look at your budget and understand some of the information that’s in there. And I would request that as you develop this budget that you look at proving some kind of budget narrative not just the numbers. That if it’s DPW, here’s DPW and this is kind of what they do, here’s where we’re looking at adjusting DPW how that’s going to impact the budget and the cost of that. Something simple not a long long narrative.”
Councilor Kelly is receptive to the suggestion. “He’s right about that. The only way that I understand the budget as well as I do is this is my third term as a city councilor. I’ve sat through several years of these budget deliberations and I finally, after, you know, many years understand what each of those lines stands for. I took notes on what Mr. Barbell said and I’m going to try to devise some sort of written narrative that explains our budget and our intent with the budget. You know I’ll start working on it this week and by the time the budget is finalized we’ll have that explanation. And come to think of it that’s a great way to keep public interest in the budget.”
Despite the lack of comments on his proposed budget, Mayor Read expects some later as city departments review the plan and city councilors consider modifications. “I think people are pretty satisfied that we put an awful lot of work into it at this point But I do ask the council to look for avenues where we could augment a little bit. I tried to stay below our expenditure target to give them some leeway to add some things in especially in the capital projects. You can see how pleased people are that we’re finally getting to build some more roads. So I’m sure there’s going to be many more additions before it’s finalized. But I’m very comfortable with the level of discussion.”