First draft shows 10.5 percent tax rate increase
By Matthew Reitz
Members of the Fulton Common Council met this week to get their first look at the city’s proposed 2016 budget, which, in its earliest form, requires a 10.5 percent increase to the tax rate. City officials, however, cautioned that this was the first of many budget discussions, and the final draft would likely have a much lower tax hike.
City Clerk/Chamberlain Dan O’Brien unveiled the first draft of the 2016 budget, which calls for total expenditures of $16,362,995, up nearly $500,000 from the $15,710,583 estimated for 2015. The city anticipates collecting $9.3 million in non-property tax revenue, which, based on current assessments, would require just over $7 million to be collected in property taxes.
In order to raise the necessary $7 million, the tax rate would need to rise from $19.66 per $1,000 of assessed value to $21.72 per 1,000 — a 10.5 percent hike from the previous year. According to O’Brien, the increase would add an additional $206 to the property tax bill for a home valued at $100,000.
O’Brien said the budget figures wouldn’t stay where they currently are, but the first draft shows how much work the council still has to do on the spending plan.
“I’m sure you don’t want to stand at that number,” O’Brien said to the council. “It’s a lot to digest; I just wanted to make sure we knew what kind of numbers we were looking at.”
Nearly 60 percent of the city’s expenses come from the police department, fire department and medical expenses, which are each expected to increase significantly next year. Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said the council would have to take some time to go through each line of the budget to see what can be cut.
“I’ll go through them (the numbers), and when we meet again I’ll show you guys what adjustments I would recommend,” Woodward told the council.
As it stands, the city would spend nearly $8 million in employee wages, the overwhelming majority of which come from the police and fire departments. Employee wages in both departments are estimated to top $3 million in 2016.
The fire department’s budget for 2015 was $2,770,658 and is set to increase to $3,234,457 in the coming year, with $3,129,187 of that set aside for employee pay, up from $2,674,376 in 2015.
Among the largest increases in the proposed budget is the police department, which was allocated $2,450,790 million in 2015, and would increase to $3,210,064 under the initial draft of the 2016 budget. Wage expenses in the police department are anticipated to rise by over $700,000, from $2,351,712 in 2015 to $3,063,606 in 2016.
Aside from increasing expenditures, the value of taxable property in the city fell about $3.5 million in the last year, which leaves the city with about $71,000 less in property tax revenue, according to O’Brien.
The budget must be passed no later than December 15, and the council expects to meet multiple times in the coming weeks to propose changes to the budget and find a way to get next year’s tax rate closer to the current rate.
City officials will hold a second workshop Friday at 5 p.m. in the mayor’s conference room inside the Fulton Municipal Building to discuss changes to the proposal.