Cortland Common Council met last night (September 3) and covered a busy agenda of topics, including the Mayor’s annual budget submissions, which at this point propose a hefty 8.4% tax increase for city residents in 2020.
“We had some difficulties over the last two years because of sales tax distribution. There’s no getting around that,” Mayor Tobin said. “In terms of anticipated revenue, there are some opportunities for improvement, but also areas where we are very stagnant.”
Sales tax revenue is just one of the issues the city faces in regards to the proposed tax hike.
The other involves the city’s anticipated costs going up around the board. Payroll, health care and a new workers’ compensation plan are just some of the fixed budget items expected to increase in cost.
Fourth Ward Alderman John Bennett made that point while Council was considering the Police Department’s request to spend $90K to purchase two 2019 Chevrolet Tahoes:
“When budget session comes and we have to tell our constituents about a 4…5…8% tax increase, I hope we’re prepared to tell them we approved this spending in advance” Bennett said. “Maybe it’s time we start to seriously look these costs over.”
The resolution was ultimately tabled until the next council meeting on September 17, but the police vehicle discussion raised another point that depicts just how behind on budgeting the city is.
The city’s Equipment Reserve Fund was momentarily brought up as a potential source of funding for the vehicles, which city finance director Mack Cook said was started with about $586K the city received in a court settlement with the former Northwoods nursing home.
Cook said the intention of the account was to save money each year, equal in value to the city’s annual depreciation rates, which could be used to purchase any major equipment upgrades the city deems necessary.
Not only has the account not been able to save money, Mack says it’s currently in a shortfall of “well over four million dollars.”
Several Budget workshop meetings will now be planned to allow Council to look for and make any potential changes to the proposed budget before a November 15 submission deadline.
A final budget will then need to be approved and enacted on December 31.