Mayor Brian Tobin previewed the tentative 2021 City of Cortland budget at last night’s common council meeting.
As proposed, it would stay under the state’s mandated tax cap and require a property levy increase of just one-percent, but achieving such a feat in the middle of a pandemic won’t be easy — or conventional.
Tobin said avoiding an increase that looks more like 6-8% will require implementing several key strategies.
“Otherwise we would have to cut services and programs that already took a hit this year due to covid like public works and the Youth Bureau,” Tobin said. “We need to think of some ways to avoid doing that.”
One potential chunk of savings could be drawn from an initiative similar to what the county undertook in August: An early retirement program.
That would incentivize city employees already closing in on their exit from service to do so before their contract officially runs out, then hiring replacements with less experience for a lower salary.
Tobin said this would particularly focus on uniformed departments like police & fire.
Altogether, he anticipates the program could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Stormwater management fee
Another policy that could be applied in the new budget is the application of a new stormwater management fee on tax bills across the city, including both residential and commercial property owners.
This would be based on street frontage and raise as much as $120k.
Utilizing DPW on more projects
The city of Cortland has several major ongoing projects getting funding from the state like sewer upgrades, much-needed paving work and the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
By using city DPW employees with the grant money allocated to these projects, Tobin said another large swath of costs could be offset in the 2021 spending plan.
Many details are still to be ironed out, starting with the first public hearing set for the night of November 3 at 7 pm via Zoom.
City leaders will also be working with their department heads and attending several workshops. Their first is scheduled for Monday, November 9.
A “proposed budget” is required by November 15 and council must adopt an official budget prior to December 31.