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MAYOR'S SPENDING PLAN SHOWS STABLE PROPERTY-TAX REVENUE

Mayor Margaret Wuerstle unveiled a 1998 spending proposal Wednesday night that would raise the same amount of property-tax revenue as in 1997.

The proposed tax levy is $6,012,930.

The tax rate, however, is different because of revaluation.

For 1997, the tax rate was $19.78 per $1,000 of assessed valuation on a total tax base of $285,234,960. For 1998, the rate is $13.11 on a tax base of $458,547,824.

The mayor's proposed spending plan of $16,923,998 shows a decrease of $622,542, or 3.5 percent, from 1997. The general fund is $11,554,221, a decrease of $677,258, or 5.5 percent.

A $2,004,777 water fund is a decrease of $34,098, or 1.6 percent. The wastewater-treatment fund is $3,365,000 for an increase of $88,814, or 2.7 percent. No increases are planned in water or sewer rates.

In a related issue, Charles Herron, acting fiscal affairs officer, said the Common Council will be asked to let residents pay their taxes in installments, currently the practice for Chautauqua County.

Also, city and county officials have been discussing a different timetable for collecting taxes.

Currently, county taxes are due in January and city taxes in May. Under a new plan, half the county and city tax bill would be paid in January and the other half in May. This would give the city a cash flow in the first three months of the year, at the beginning of the fiscal year, according to Herron.

In her proposed budget, Mayor Wuerstle has cut personnel expenses, which account for 65 percent of the budget; 15 percent of the spending plan is debt service.

The mayor also would:

Appoint a deputy director of public works, a position that is available but has not been funded.

Eliminate the job of recreation director, assigning the Youth Bureau coordinator to the Development Department and relocating the recreation coordinator to the Parks Department and its office on Robin Street.

Eliminate the positions of chief operators of the water plant and the wastewater-treatment plant.

Eliminate the laboratory at the water plant and transfer all duties to the laboratory at the wastewater-reatment plant. One chemist position also would be eliminated.

These actions would help save $500,000 -- a requirement for the city to remain solvent, Mayor Wuerstle said.

"The city has spent money on computers and other equipment," Herron explained. "We have new water lines that need less maintenance. We must be efficient. We have not been able to cut personnel costs through attrition and early retirements. We cannot borrow to pay our bills."

Herron also said the city hopes to replace two Fire Department pumpers. Leasing and a low-interest loan from the state are being considered.

This year's budget does not have fund balances from 1997 that could be used to lower taxes. That money has been used used to subsidize the wastewater-treatment plant.

The Common Council will begin its review of the proposed budget. A public hearing will be held in November, with adoption of a budget required by Dec. 15.

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