The Troy City Council agreed on a budget compromise Tuesday night, effectively halving a 9.2 percent property tax increase.
It was a busy night at City Hall as the nine members of the city council debated over how to find further reductions in outgoing Mayor Lou Rosamilia’s amended budget proposal. The new spending plan, which would cut property taxes from a projected 9.21 percent increase to 4.97 percent, was brought forward at the request of the city council.
The revised budget included no employee layoffs, but does eliminate four vacant positions.
On Tuesday night, members of the council debated whether to take on new staff cuts.
Republican Jim Gordon, who last month lost in a four-way mayor’s race, introduced measures to eliminate a video clerk position for the city police department, a marketing position to assist with the city’s upcoming bicentennial, and the city’s recreation director, which he argued would become redundant under the umbrella of the city’s new Department of Public Works Commissioner.
The staff cuts were met by skepticism by other members of the council, including Democrat Bob Doherty.
“I think we need to stop taking these votes because we’re changing what we’ve said we’d do,” said Doherty.
Gordon said he planned to eliminate 12 positions to bring the property tax increase below the state’s 2 percent cap.
“So my question is ‘Why are you supporting this?’ Because of scare tactics of garbage pickup every two weeks? Because side streets won’t get plowed? You know that’s a bunch of hogwash. You all said it last night. But you still voted in favor of piercing the tax cap.”
In the end, the city voted to eliminate the recreation director position 5 to 4.
The cut of just over $71,000 resulted in a 1/3 of a percent reduction in the property tax, bringing the number down to 4.62 percent. The amended plan was approved 8 to 1.
Outgoing City Council President Rodney Wiltshire, Jr., who also ran an unsuccessfully for mayor last month, said he was pleased with the new agreement.
“I had hoped to get something under 5 percent and we were able to do that. That was important to me and we accomplished that goal. So I’m certainly happier today that we were a month ago,” said Wiltshire.
Wiltshire said he was puzzled by the mayor’s inclusion of a $10,000 confidential secretary position in the amended plan after the council previously voted to remove the position. A measure brought forward to eliminate the position Tuesday failed.
Wiltshire said he was surprised the mayor’s amended budget did not include any staff cuts.
“It’s one thing to not fill vacancies but it’s another thing not to find real efficiencies in the operations of the city, and simply cutting pens and paper makes the people who have to do their job — it’s more difficult for them to do it — so I think staff cuts were the things that really needed to be looked at.”
Gordon, who cast the lone opposing vote, said city taxpayers are still not in a good position.
“It’s just a piece of paper. It’s just a document, that unfortunately, it’s that’s a roadmap, you’re gonna bring you to nowhere.”
Mayor Rosamilia said he will comply with the mandate that he make a decision on the new budget by December 8th. He did not have a concrete answer when asked if he would approve the amendment offered up Tuesday night.
“They asked me to get the rate under 5 percent and I did so. I have renewed the budget again today, and I support the budget that I presented last night.”
On January 1st, a new city council will arrive and Democrat Patrick Madden will become mayor.
Madden called the new budget agreement "very thin" and said "it will be a challenging year trying to manage that budget and build revenue sources for the future." He said he recognized that it will take some time to get the "financial ship righted."