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Utica Mayor proposes 11 percent property tax hike

By By GARY LIBERATORE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica Mayor David Roefaro unveiled his 2010-2011 budget Friday afternoon.

In that budget, Roefaro proposes an 11 percent property tax increase, a half-percent sales tax increase in the City of Utica and the elimination of 19 city jobs.

The job losses are as follows:

*Four city workers were let go Friday morning - two were in the Parks Department, one in the Corporation Counsel office and one administrative position in the Utica Fire Department.

Roefaro said the remaining 15 positions will be eliminated due to retirements.

Six positions recently vacated by retirements will not be filled, and nine others are positions that will be vacated within the next six weeks due to retirements, and those positions will also not be filled.

Roefaro said it was not an easy decision to come to.

"If you don't think that doesn't bother me - that I have to affect 19 people's lives - that weighs heavily on me," he said. "But we have no more way to sustain these jobs, without hitting city services."

The proposed half-percent sales tax increase is something Utica Common Council President William Morehouse said just won't fly.

"If we're talking half a percent, that means $1.7 million not coming into our economy," Morehouse said. "There's got to be a better way."

Mayor Roefaro said if the Common Council does not like the sales tax increase idea - which would ultimately need state approval - then property taxes would have to take the proverbial bullet. If that were the case, Roefaro said property taxes would rise from an 11 percent increase to a nearly 20 percent increase.

Roefaro said most of the city's budget deficit comes from the state's problems, including this year's $4 million bill for pension funding - a 900 percent increase.

"When Wall Street fell and the State of New York doesn't make the the money, just like in a stock account, they don't make that amount of money to sustain the pension fund, well, the State of New York doesn't bear the burden of that," Roefaro said. "They pass it on to the municipalities."

The budget is due on March 20.

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