by Andrew Henderson
The Fulton Common Council adopted a 2013 budget Thursday night that contains a 3.167 percent tax increase.
Overall, the $15.4 million budget includes an increase in spending of $292,000.
Mayor Ron Woodward said that the increase in spending is for items the city does not have control over: health insurance costs, pension costs, and other state and federal mandates.
No services were cut, but a few positions, including some in the fire department, will be eliminated through attrition in 2013.
The tax rate for 2013 is $17.06 per $1,000 of assessed value. The increase equates to about $25 on a $50,000 home.
Prior to the budget hearing, the council adopted a resolution to override the New York State property tax cap limit.
The primary reason the council did so was because of the uncertainty with the assessments of the hydro plants along the Oswego River.
“They were lowered in Minetto and they were lowered in Oswego,” Woodward said about the hydro plants’ assessments. “I have no reason to believe that Fulton will be different. If we don’t (override the state tax cap), it’ll come back to haunt us.”
The State of New York — not the city — sets the assessments of all utilities, including the hydro plants.
In addition, Oswego County Supreme Court Judge Norman Seiter Jr. reduced the assessment of the former Birds Eye plant from $7.7 million to $3.9 million. Seiter signed the order Dec. 20, which was too late to be included in the budget.
Third Ward Councilor Pete Franco said that the state and federal government pushing mandates on local communities.
“We don’t control our destiny,” Franco said. “We are pawns of the state and federal governments.”
Woodward agreed. “It’s a bunch of politics,” he said about the state tax cap. “Nevertheless, it’s a reality that we have to deal with.”
Sixth Ward Councilor Larry Macner said there is at least a silver lining. “The city is not bankrupt yet,” he noted. “Some of the cities in New York State are.”
The biggest impact to the $15.4 million budget are the reduced assessments, a $250,000 increase in health insurance, and an $100,000 increase in pension costs. The city has also used $300,000 from the reserve fund to offset a higher tax increase, leaving $20,000 in the reserve fund balance.
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