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A proposed cut of 14 cents in city property tax rates is the silver lining in a 2001-02 spending plan unveiled Tuesday by Mayor James P. Griffin.

In presenting the $12,480,282 budget package to Common Council members during a committee meeting, Griffin said the decrease will represent the first in 32 years if his plan gains Common Council approval in April.

If so, tax bills will be calculated at an estimated rate of $95.74 per $1,000 of assessed property value. At that rate, $3,978,707 in revenue will be raised, in an amount about 2 percent less than the 2001-02 figure.

Overall, the plan would spend $382,285 more than can be covered in revenues. The general fund amounts to an increase of about 9 percent over the 2000-2001 fiscal year.

Revenues also weigh in slightly higher by a slim 1.13 percent for a total of $11,393,282.

Griffin proposed using $1,087,000 from the city's surplus fund balance. After the session, he described the surplus as "healthy" because it has swelled to about $3 million.

In addition to supplying the necessary revenues to support the general fund, the surplus contribution could finance a $250,000 bailout of the sewer fund, which last year experienced a $84,000 deficit and is due for a rate overhaul. Griffin said the bailout would cushion the community from continued shortfalls.

In his presentation, Griffin said he wants to move $321,000 from the surplus to the new fleet-replacement capital fund. He also hopes $35,000 of the surplus can be spent on improvement at the municipal airport terminal waiting area, as a possible first step in an upgrade of the facility.

Other surplus spending would make $25,000 available for elevator repairs at the municipal building and enlarge the senior center budget by $6,000.

The plan also contains a recommendation to the Common Council for fee increases of 5 percent in both the water and sewer quarterly rate schedules.

"This is the culmination of several years work that has allow us to get to solvency," Griffin said.

The Council will discuss the budget in more details at a meeting in March.

In other business, the full Council:

Approved an easement for Robert A. Benjamin to be used as an access road behind his Frito Lay distributorship on South 20th Street. Alderwoman Joyce Melfi cast the lone no vote, objecting to the lack of financial data for the annual $750 rate set by the Council.

Authorized an agreement with Allegany County to exchange treatment of city sewage sludge at the Allegany County landfill for treating leachate at the city's waste-water treatment plant.

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