Johnstown 2018 budget ‘stabilized’

JOHNSTOWN — Officials on Monday night released the city’s tentative $13.2 million tentative budget for 2018 — a spending plan calling for a 2 percent property tax rate increase.

Following the Common Council meeting at City Hall, Mayor Vern Jackson said his tentative budget is a far cry from the 2017 budget adopted by the city last year. That budget was approved with a 9 percent property tax rate hike.

He called the city’s fiscal situation “stabilized” with the proposed budget.

“We’ve done very well,” Jackson said. “We were able to keep the increase down to 2 percent.”

But the mayor noted the tentative budget – with a proposed $12.63 per $1,000 of assessed valuation tax rate for 2018 – is still above the state’s imposed tax cap for the city.

The council set a public hearing on the tentative budget for 6 p.m. Nov. 20 in the Common Council Chambers at City Hall.

City officials also wish to adopt a local law to give the council the option to possibly exceed the tax cap established by state General Municipal Law. That hearing was also set for the same time, date and place.

The tentative 2018 budget totals $13.2 million in appropriations. The property tax rate would increase from $12.39 per $1,000 to $12.63. The city’s tax levy would increase from $5.49 million to $5.67 million for 2018. Fund balance added to help balance the spending plan would be $164,443. Other revenue used to offset the budget would increase from $6.97 million in 2017 to $7.37 million for 2018.

City Treasurer Michael Gifford was not in attendance Monday night to preview the tentative budget.

Jackson said the tax cap is about $12.46 per $1,000.

“The department heads did a great job on the budget,” the mayor said.

Departmental requests for 2018 translated to a $13.1 million budget, with a tax rate around the tax cap figure.

Jackson said the city had to use fund balance again, and he was adamant the city was not going to get another 9 percent tax rate for next year.

“I can be satisfied with it that it wasn’t a major property tax increase,” he said.

The 2017 $12.7 million budget pitched by his predecessor, Interim Mayor Cindy Lakata, and later adopted by the council, was adopted was with an eye toward improving the city’s fiscal situation for 2018.

Jackson said the city had to craft the 2018 tentative budget with possible raises in mind for union members. The council has yet to finalize new deals for the police and fire unions.

A breakdown by expenditure requests in the 2018 tentative budget follows: Common Council – $22,600; mayor – $18,800; city treasurer – $324,700; city clerk – $67,300; city assessor – $49,200; elections – $18,600; public health – $5,000; historian – $2,200; city attorney – $138,700; public works – $3.37 million; fire department – $1.85 million; police – $2.05 million; traffic control – $18,000; animal control – 48,700; program for aging – $156,300; unallocated expenditures – $299,800; debt – $228,400; employee benefits – $4.25 million; transfers – $278,100.

“The council now has my tentative budget,” Jackson said.

The council will now conduct workshops to work on the final spending plan before adoption.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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