UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri on Thursday unveiled his 2014-15 budget proposal. The plan includes an 8.73% tax increase.
The number was initially closer to 27%, but, knowing that number was unacceptable, department heads and the mayor's budget staff went back to the drawing board to cut more. With 86% of the budget mandated, less than 14% of the spending plan is discretionary.
"We're at the level of we can't cut any longer without affecting the services and the next level would be, unfortunately, it would be a drastic change in the services that we deliver to the people," says Mayor Robert Palmieri.
The proposed tax hike would mean an increase of $9.25 a month to a taxpayer whose home is valued at $55,000. Seniors, whose fixed incomes aren't increasing, say it will be tough to handle any increase in their monthly bills.
"Sure it would. I'm on a fixed income. So any increase is going to just take away from my way of living," said Roy Mahardy, of north Utica.
City Councilperson Frank Vescera, of the 1st district, is one of only two councilpeople who on Wednesday night voted against raising the state-imposed 2% property tax cap.
"But I think one of the things that really should be done as far as consolidation is to bring all codes under the codes department and bring it under one umbrella," says Vescera, who quickly adds that such a move would not be a cure-all for the city's financial challenges.
"Of course not, of course, not, but if you don't even start some place, if you don't have a place that you're willing to start, then you have no chance of really doing the right thing," says Vescera.
Councilperson Samantha Colosimo-Testa says her constituents have expressed concern about losing services.
"I get phone calls all the time to please not cut services. You know, we went through the leaves issues, we went through one patrol car for the police department in north Utica" said Colosimo-Testa.
The budget is now in the hands of the common council, which has until March 20 to make changes and pass a budget.
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