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Saratoga Springs city budget uncertain

The discussion over how the City of Saratoga Springs will pay for a new police station, answer the question of paid parking downtown and seek refuge from darkening fiscal clouds was renewed at the City Council table on Tuesday, April 21, as Finance Commissioner Kenneth Ivins presented his mid-year budget update.

The city relied on a number of one-time revenues and an infusion from the contingency fund to keep a zero percent tax hike for the 2009 budget. Factoring in a total loss of VLT aid, that amounts to $3.2 million that will not be arriving next year, said Ivins. A 20 percent property tax hike or deep budget cuts would be needed to close that gap.

Undertaking the construction of a new public safety facility, long on the city's agenda, without significant new revenue generators would put the budget even further behind.

It's pretty easy folks, it's just like your home budget. You have to cut costs or go get another job, said Ivins.

Also troubling is that sales tax receipts for January and February are down 6.7 percent compared to the same period in 2008. Ivins speculated that might change as the year progresses, though.

Accounts Commissioner John Franck disagreed, saying this year's estimates were drafted when commodity and gas prices were high.

"I will kiss your ass in front of Starbucks' window if we meet our sales tax numbers," he remarked. Franck said that budget workshops in May will require a lot of work from all the commissioners.

"If we don't, we're not going to have to worry about a tea party, it's going to be even worse," he said.

Ivins discussed the possibility of offering incentives for early retirement or undergoing layoffs in his presentation. Early retirement would allow the city to bring new employees in at base pay while letting highly paid veterans go, but there was some question as to whether this would present a cost savings after health care for outgoing workers is accounted for.

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