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BUDGET TAX INCREASE IS REDUCED TO 11.7%

A brighter forecast for the state pension bill due more than a year from now lowered the projected 2005 city tax increase by almost 3 percentage points Thursday.

A day after telling aldermen that a larger-than-expected pension charge due this December would trigger a 14.6 percent property tax hike for 2005 without heavy spending cuts, City Clerk and Budget Director Richard P. Mullaney said new projections from Albany for the December 2005 bill reduce the tax hike to 11.7 percent.

This year's bill affects next year's taxes because the city can't afford to pay it without heavy use of the surplus funds it was planning to apply to the 2005 budget. The pension bill was received after Mayor Michael W. Tucker submitted a 2005 budget with a 9.6 percent tax increase Oct. 12.

However, the pension bill expected at the end of 2005 now is projected to be $255,000 lower than Mullaney had calculated.

City Treasurer James W. Ashcraft Jr. offered bad news to the Common Council, reporting that sales tax revenue for the first nine months of 2004 is more than $59,000 behind last year's pace.

Aldermen then went behind closed doors to discuss the pay raises department heads are seeking for 2005. Council President John Lombardi III said more budget talks are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Monday and Wednesday.

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