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City proposes hikes in water, sewer, tax rates

Mayor David Carucci's 2009-10 spending proposal of $15.7 million exceeds recent spending estimates by about $95,000.

Nevertheless, the projected tax hike of 9.97 percent is the lowest in several years, as the city begins to pull itself back from the brink of an accumulated $4.3 million deficit.

The plan is accompanied by an anticipated 4 percent water rate hike to support the $3.4 million water fund and a 21.3 percent hike in sewer fees to carry the $3.2 million sewer fund.

A preliminary version of the plan was introduced to the Common Council in a series of presentations over the past few months. The final draft was distributed to Council members late Thursday, three days ahead of Sunday's deadline.

The plan must now be reviewed by the New York State comptroller, in accord with oversight rules imposed on local governments that have received the State Legislature's authorization to borrow money while experiencing a budget deficit.
Council members also will begin reviewing the document, but the comptroller could suggest changes they also would have to review before adopting the plan by April 15.
According to a letter from the mayor to the Council, the $6.94 million tax levy will add $16.09 per $1,000 of assessed property value, translating to a tax rate of $179.21 and a tax bill of about $1,075 for the average homeowner with an assessed property value of $6,000.

Until a citywide property revaluation is completed later this year, the assessed values are based on adjustments to 1962 real estate values, which was the last year that a revaluation was conducted.
If the current proposal is adopted, residential water users will receive quarterly billing based on $59.50 per 1,000 cubic feet of water use, a $2.50 rate hike. Most customers using an average of 2,500 cubic feet per quarter will be billed about $150 each period, or an annual total of about $595. Sewer customers will see $9.25 added to the rate, for a total of $51.55 per 1,000 cubic feet. Customers using an average of 2,500 cubic feet per quarter will see a quarterly bill of about $130, for an annual total of about $515.50.

Carucci justifies the water and sewer rate hikes as a means of making the water and sewer funds self-supporting. Both systems need repairs and expansion to accommodate growth, and the city will be forced to borrow to pay for the work.

The members of the Council's Finance Committee are expected to discuss the proposal during a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers of the Municipal Building.

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