Officials grapple with budget

Looking for items to trim budget, library position may endure

JOHNSTOWN — The city’s tentative $13.2 million budget hasn’t been adopted yet, but it appears city officials may not cut a budgeted Johnstown Public Library position to trim the spending plan further.

The Common Council went into Monday night’s budget workshop at City Hall with a proposed $40,000 library cut to the levy to help trim a proposed 2 percent tax rate hike for next year closer to zero.

“The council here is doing their due diligence,” said Councilman-at-Large Craig Talarico.

But after hearing from library Director Erica Wing, the council appeared to be leaning toward not cutting the position.

Talarico said he personally was against cutting the position Wing is seeking.

“I feel more comfortable trusting her budget the way it is right now and going along with a 1.9 percent [tax rate] increase,” Talarico said.

That 2 percent rate increase is what city residents are facing at this point for next year.

When the council met in its previous workshop, council members discussed getting the proposed 2 percent city tax rate increase for 2018 down to at least zero. City legislators must reduce the tentative 2018 levy by another $108,000 to accomplish that, city Treasurer Michael Gifford said.

The prior budget workshop mainly centered on proposing cutting a $40,000 library position contained in the tentative $13.2 million budget released Oct. 10 by Jackson; and possibly using water surplus. But the council is not intending to use water surplus funding, which mostly is used for the Water Department’s capital projects.

Wing told the council Monday that although the library is seeking school district library status, it still put together a budget seeking a city allocation for 2018. She said her budget request from the city is a “flat” $278,000 – the same as the public library requested from the city in 2017.

“The library hasn’t asked for an increase in allocation the last two budget cycles,” Wing said.

The Johnstown Public Library Board of Trustees voted unanimously in September to pursue becoming a school district public library.”

Pending approval of next May’s proposition, the Johnstown Public Library would apply for a new library charter, dissolve, and transfer assets of the old library. Once that process is completed, the library would be funded by a separate designation on a future school tax bill.

“It is a large undertaking that we’re looking at right now,” Wing told the council.

Talarico said that the city might want to stick to a 2 percent tax rate hike for next year so that further damage isn’t done in years to come. City residents sustained a 9 percent rate hike for 2017.

“We have police and fire negotiations going on right now,” Talarico said. “The fund balance is something that needs to be protected.”

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

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