No tax hike in city budget plan

$44.9 million proposed spending plan would increase sewer fee 5.75%, raise garbage fee $50

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There is no general property tax increase in the proposed $44.9 million 2021 Rome city budget presented by Mayor Jacqueline Izzo at a Wednesday night special common council meeting. The plan does call for a 5.75% increase in sewer rates and a flat $50 increase in refuse fees.

“I am pleased to report that despite all of the twists and turns economically, we are presenting a budget with no property tax increase. This is a testament to our department heads and employees that we are able to keep the property tax rate steady because it came with much sacrifice,” Izzo said.

Those sacrifices were detailed as were staffing changes and the elimination of many work and programming traditions held by the city as sales tax and other municipal revenues took huge hits due to coronavirus shutdowns. As a result, Izzo said the changes resulted in savings of $1,000,000 in the general fund and $230,000 in three other funds — water, sewer and refuse.

Among highlights Izzo also noted, “Our water rates will remain steady for 2021. Various mandated improvements, such as a new ultraviolet light facility, which filters wastewater, will require a slight increase in our sewer rates next year of 5.75%. Refuse rates have not been adjusted in the city since 2007. Due to increased costs of doing business over 13 years, the refuse fee will increase by $50. Even with this increase, the city of Rome refuse charge still remains lower than any private hauler service, residential or commercial.”

Izzo further noted that this proposal as it stands would be the fourth year in a row property taxes - which generate 35.12% of the city’s income in a 2021 projection- remain steady.

Crafting the break-even $44,914,430 budget took additional time this year due to the many unknowns regarding revenue sources, Izzo said.

In the proposal, the largest expenses come in as employee wages and benefits at 24.36%. Among other top areas of expenditures include police at 16.76%; public works at 15.78%; and debt service at 11.36%, according to a budget summary.

According to the documents, total revenues in the proposed budget — for both inside and outside districts — are to be derived from a property tax levy of $15,358,405; $1,192,003 to be appropriated from the fund balance and $28,364,022 from other revenue sources, including state aid and sales tax revenue.

“We began 2020 with much anticipation and excitement,” Izzo said. Then, the pandemic led to a shutdown of municipal governments, businesses, schools and more.

This resulted in a 30% decline in sales tax revenue for many months, that is now showing signs of bouncing back, the mayor said, “Fortunately our economy appears to be on its way to recovery,” she said.

The city is still waiting to hear final word on how much municipal aid will be coming from the state that can be factored into the city’s operating budget, in addition to any federal stimulus money that could potentially become available.

A public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

Over the next few weeks, there will be budget hearings with each city government department - which kicked off last night with corporation counsel, codes enforcement and parks and recreation.

Those meetings can be heard using a telephone livestream.

Additional information on the budget season (including how to listen to meetings) and information on regular common council meetings can be found online at: https://romenewyork.com/common-council/

Thursday morning, city officials confirmed the proposed budget will be posted to the city website for public viewing later today.

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