ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick unveiled his proposed city budget for 2016 at City Hall on Thursday night.
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“This is the 4th budget of my administration, and it is easily the most boring budget,” Myrick said.
“Boring is a good term: We’re finally reaching stability … we’re finally coming out of the uncertainty that came from the recession.”
Myrick said that the city is largely able to keep spending and taxes essentially steady in 2016 because:
1 — Decisions in prior years have helped slow the increase in city expenditures. These decisions included restructuring the city’s debt and merging governmental departments, Myrick said;
2 — There’s also been a rise in city revenue, Myrick said, including from: added fees from building permits paid by local developers; new revenues resulting from economic development in Collegetown and downtown; and money from the special stormwater and sidewalk programs that increased charges for Ithaca’s large non-profits.
What’s in the mayor’s proposed budget?
Myrick’s presentation on Thursday marked the beginning of the city’s budget process: Over the next several weeks, members of Ithaca’s Common Council, heads of city departments and the public will be providing feedback on his initial proposal.
We’ll continue to cover that budget process as it unfolds.
For now, here are four of the biggest highlights from the mayor’s proposed budget:
1 — Small tax levy increase; no rise in tax rate | Myrick said that he is seeking a 1.7 percent increase in the tax levy. (The tax levy is the overall amount of money coming into the City of Ithaca budget.) He said that this was the lowest increase of the tax levy since 2000.
Meanwhile, Myrick said, he is proposing that the tax rate remain completely flat. In other words: “If your assessment does not go up, your taxes will not go up,” he said.
Still, there will likely be a big increase in assessments for at least some homeowners. The Ithaca Journal’s Andrew Casler recently reported that the overall assessment value for Tompkins County increased by 2.6 percent, to $11.5 billion, in 2015.
2 — ‘Largely a hold-steady budget’ | Most of the city departments — e.g., the Ithaca police and the city attorney’s office — will see their spending hold steady from the year before.
There is a small decrease in the fire department’s budget, but local firefighters say they are able to handle the responsibilities at new funding levels, Myrick said.
3 — Fees mostly flat | Trash tag fees will remain the same; the water rate will go up 5 percent; the stormwater and sidewalk fees will also remain the same.
Overall, most of the city’s’ various fees for various services will remain flat.
4 — Spending priorities | While most city departments will see steady levels of funding, the Department of Public Works will see a bigger increase under the mayor’s proposed budget.
Last year, paving the streets was one of the mayor’s two biggest priorities. Similar story this year: “DPW is where you see the most new investment,” Myrick said.
Myrick wants to increase the city’s capital budget for street improvements by close to $900,000.
Among the other new spending priorities in the mayor’s proposed 2016 budget: Body cameras for police officers; an outreach worker for downtown Ithaca; and increased hours for a historic planner in the city’s planning department.
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