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Property tax rate increase of 2.99% proposed in City of Tonawanda

Calling for a property tax rate increase of 2.99 percent, City of Tonawanda Mayor Rick Davis unveiled Tuesday his $21.2 million budget plan for 2017.

With a tax rate increase of 51 cents – to $17.74 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, from $17.23 – the average homeowner would see an increase of about $50 on their tax bill, Davis said. The increases are almost identical to those in this year’s budget.

“When this 2017 proposed budget was first handed to me, it included an 11.4 percent tax increase,” Davis said in a prepared budget message. “Working hard with all my department heads and the city treasurer, we were able to get that number to where it is today.”

The mayor’s plan estimates that state aid will again remain at $2.6 million for the third straight year, despite inflation.

The property tax levy of $11.3 million represents 54 percent of revenue. The proposed 3.13 percent increase in the tax levy is well over the state-mandated tax cap of 0.68 percent. The Common Council on Tuesday took the first step toward overriding the tax cap.

“To maintain the city’s annual operating budget within the confines of the state real property tax cap would require a large reduction in city services,” Davis told the audience in Council Chambers. “We don’t see that as a feasible option, and we believe you would not want that to happen, either.”

Davis also noted that for the second straight year, the budget does not tap into the city’s fund balance to help offset an increase in the tax levy.

Davis said he worked with department heads to try to control overtime expenses in the city’s four largest departments – Police, Fire, Public Works, and Parks and Recreation. Staffing levels have been maintained.

The proposed budget anticipates the retirements of about four city employees.

In addition, the minimum annual sewer charge would rise to $224, from $217.60, because of a consent order with the state requiring a $25 million investment into the city’s sanitary sewer system.

There’s also $1 million for street paving and sidewalk replacement, money to improve the Koenig Alley parking lot and Rails to Trails capital improvements.

New this year is a “neighborhood beautification” budget of $2,000 for each of the city’s four Council districts, Davis said. The mayor and Council member for each district will decide which beautification project will be implemented.

There’s also a proposed “volunteer assistance program” of $10,000 for city clubs and organizations.

“Every year, they will submit their requests to me and the Council for consideration,” Davis said.

“This is a way of paying it forward and allowing our organizations to do what they do best – helping our residents.”

email: jpopiolkowski@buffnews.com

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