By Colin Hogan
Fulton officials revealed the city’s $15.7 million proposed 2015 budget Tuesday which, in spite of an increase in spending, holds the line on property taxes.
City spending for 2015 would total $15,710,583, according to the proposed budget — up $114,395 from this year’s $15,596,188 in appropriations. General fund revenues would total $9,324,102 — up $140,669 from $9,183,433 in 2014 — with $6,464,816 to be raised from the property tax levy, which city officials say would be achieved at the same tax rate as 2014 of $19.662 per $1,000 of assessed value.
Mayor Ron Woodward Sr. said the biggest factor in establishing a balanced budget has been reducing personnel. In all, he said the city will be spending over $200,000 less than it did this year on personnel.
“Most of our way of balancing the budget was in personnel,” Woodward said. “We had some retirements that we didn’t fill, or where the person has come back to work part time.”
For example, after public works commissioner Dan O’Brien was appointed to replace retiring city clerk/chamberlain Jim Laboda, the city chose not to seek a new public works commissioner, and instead promoted one of the department’s supervisors to lead it. That eliminated one position in the public works department without any layoffs.
The city is also saving money on personnel by re-hiring some of the full time employees who are retiring this year, such as the personnel director, deputy clerk and dog warden, as part-timers. Woodward said this cuts the costs of those positions roughly in half, with less being paid in salaries and insurance, and without the expense of retirement contributions.
“In New York state if a person retires, they can come back and work on a part time basis as long as they don’t earn more than $30,000 a year. Of course, when these people retire, they’ve got a lot of years in and are making a higher wage. If you bring them back on a part time basis to fill the full time positions, you pay half the salary, you’re not paying retirement, you’re not paying as much insurance and, because the salary is less, the amount of Social Security the city has to match is less.”
Employee benefits and retirements continue to be a growing burden in the budget. Next year, the city will spend $3,119,687 in medical insurance costs — an increase of $265,932 from this year. That comes alongside a $317,119 increase in fire and police retirement costs, from $1,230,597 to $1,474,134, and an increase of $84,384 in other state retirement contributions, from $243,102 to $299,737.
Last year, Fulton spent 9.68 percent of its budget on employee retirement costs. In 2015, that will grow to 11.29 percent, the budget shows.
Should the budget be adopted as is, spending on the fire department would decrease about 3.5 percent, from $3,017,868 to $2,913,451. The police budget would also shrink from $3,194,850 to $3,144,095, or 1.4 percent. Woodward said both departments are operating with less personnel, but noted that scenario can often increase the amount of overtime being paid.
City water appropriations would total $1,403,437, down $4,621 from 2014. Meanwhile, revenues are expected to reach $1,290,280, down $43,000 from 2014, leaving a difference $113,157 to be paid out of fund balances.
Sewer expenses would total $1,898,590, down $66,572 from this year, while revenues are expected to total $1,807,190, up $93,400 from this year, leaving $91,400 to be paid out of fund balances.