On Monday December 21, 2009 at 7:00 the City Council will vote on the most difficult budget the city has faced in recent memories. Despite the fact that expenses have been reduced to below 2009 levels, we are facing an increase in taxes beyond any that the council or I want to levy. The heart of the problem stems from a combined loss of nearly two million dollars in 2009 and 2010 of sales tax related revenues.
Over the last few weeks, with the assistance of City Administrator Meredith Robson and city department heads, we looked at every line item in the budget. Our goal was to provide only essential services in police, fire and public works. As of Sunday December 13th the following is a partial list of the decisions we anticipate will be adopted.
(1) Thus far there will be no full time positions eliminated or work furloughs. In these hard times we did not want our city workers to be added to the list of unemployed or suffer a reduction in pay. Nor do we want city services to be reduced to the point of jeopardizing police and fire operations or clean and safe roads and parks. We ask the unions to honor the difficult decisions made by the council and the somber realities of this budget, and agree to not increase wages in 2010. Attrition has been applied to any non-essential positions that are vacant in 2010. Summer Public Works temporary positions are not funded in this budget.
(2) Regrettably we have eliminated all allocations to non-city sponsored recreational programs such as leagues and senior programs. The city will maintain our park fields. Beacon recreation programs that are largely self funded will continue to operate such as Beacon Hoops. The pool will be closed this summer but the University Settlement Camp and Hiddenbrooke will be open to the public for passive use and camp programs. Maintenance equipment and vehicles that are not essential will either not be purchased or curtailed to a minimum. We are again appealing to the public for funds to launch a July 4th fireworks display.
(3) The Beacon Engine Firehouse will not be closed in 2010 with thanks to a member item Assemblyman Frank Scartados believes he will be able to secure. Before taking any action the council has accepted the advice of the Fire Advisory Committee and will seek a professional study to examine response time and the population density in the proximity of Beacon Engine. The study will be comprehensive and review the overall Beacon Fire Department efficiencies and operation.
When including some positive impacts made by the County Legislature in their proposed budget, the Council has reduced the budget by approximately 4.5% off of the original 14.5% tax increase. That’s about $320,000 less which brings the increase over last year down to the 10% vicinity. We will be conducting one more workshop on Monday December 13th and one council meeting on December 21st in which we will try to reduce the budget further.
Last week we held a special budget town hall meeting which filled the Tompkins Hose Firehouse to capacity. Thank you all who attended. The final public hearing will be on Monday December 21st. Please continue to email and voice your suggestions.
Steve Gold, Mayor