Wallets may get a break

The proposed 2007 city budget may have less of an impact on city taxpayers' wallets than earlier projected.

Citing possible insurance savings and increased mortgage tax receipts, Commissioner of Finance Matthew McCabe said Monday, Nov. 13, taxpayers could see a 5 percent hike in property taxes next year instead of the 6 percent hike originally proposed.

McCabe is expected to unveil a revised 2007 budget this week that calls for $13.1 million tax levy, down a little more than $100,000 from the proposed total tax levy of $13.2 million that was introduced last month.

The commissioner said he wanted to negotiate changes to address concerns by council members while attempting to decrease the tax rate increase to 5 percent.

I think it's respectable that we have been able to come down a point, considering health costs and new contracts, McCabe said. He added that to decrease the tax levy any further may affect city jobs and public services.

Public Works director William McTygue had sought to add about $156,000 to cover salary and health insurance costs necessary to convert eight part-time employees to full time.

But the money is not currently included in the proposed budget. McTygue said that the number of employees in the DPW has increased by only one in the past 10 years and that he sought to promote eight individuals from part-time to full-time but was denied because it would cost the city close to $60,000 in salaries to do so.

McCabe said salaries, benefits and energy alone account for roughly 87 percent of the budget proposal. Health insurance is going up $750,000 (18 percent) from the same time a year ago, while police and fire retirement costs will go up $500,000 per year for the next decade under a recently settled contract.

Public Safety Commissioner Ron Kim has sought $25,000 to purchase software to address state law that requires the city to conduct code enforcement inspections on all apartments. That funding also is not currently included in the proposed spending plan. Kim said he still is reviewing the proposed budget and will not be sure where his department stands until later this week.

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