McCabe said that 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.
City employees' health coverage also drew fire from Kraus and Bronner. Under the present contract, if a part-time city employee works for 10 years, they get 100 percent coverage for themselves and their family members.
Bronner said he considered that contract ridiculous. "I spent 30 years in the military, and I don't get 100 percent coverage," he said.
The budget includes $4.33 million to cover the remaining expenses associated with the city's new recreational facility. The recreation facility has a projected cost of $6.5 million and ongoing operational costs that would start at $300,000 per year, and go up annually as salaries and programs increase.
When he unveiled the budget, McCabe urged the city to approach the new recreation center project with caution. The initial cost has nearly tripled from $2.2 million to $6.5 million, and infrastructure costs that were expected to be shared have now shifted to the city, he said. "Construction will easily bring us into 2008," McCabe said. "We have the time to take the time to think hard about this kind of obligation."
At the public hearing, Recreation Commission Chairman Bob Spratt urged the council to look beyond the numbers when it considers the new recreation facility. "I don't want you to make a financial decision just based on the finances. You've got to look at the future," he said. "I'd hate to see a decision made based on finances that would affect the youth of Saratoga."
The city will see a new funding source next year, in the form of video lottery terminal revenues, but McCabe"who came into office in a year when county sales tax revenue was over estimated by $1 million"cautioned against overestimating the projected $2.7 million in revenue. "The county is using estimates on machines that haven't been built yet," he said.""