After a month of meetings, the Common Council approved the 2016 budget recommended by Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 on Nov. 4.
During the final meeting to discuss the budget, several changes were made before it was approved, according to Alderperson Stephen Smith (D-4th Ward) and Alderperson Seph Murtagh M.A. ’04 Ph.D ’09 (D-2nd Ward).
Some of the major changes included an adjustment to the Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit budget as well as plans to increase the number of workers in a couple city departments.
TCAT board members, Bill Gray and Frank Proto ’65, appeared before the Common Council and requested additional funding from the city, according to The Ithaca Journal. The council passed an increase of $50,000 in TCAT funding by a 7-3 vote.
“We had a pretty thorough discussion with TCAT about their request for additional funding and budget,” Smith said. “We were able to increase the TCAT fund by $50,000 by pulling $42,000 from a fund that had been set aside for bus purchases and another $8,000 from the revenue account.”
There were also changes made concerning the city workers, including the decision to hire a co-inspector for the Planning, Building, Zoning and Economic Development Department to help inspect new constructions throughout the city and in particular in Collegetown, Murtagh said.
In addition, the council added a new accountant position in the City Controller’s office and increased the salary of a forestry worker, according to Murtagh. Among other things, the council also agreed to increase the budget for water appropriations from the initial five percent to seven percent, he added.
Throughout the budget meetings in October leading up to the final approval meeting, Smith said the Common Council’s priority has been keeping taxes low.
“We say keep taxes low but they are already high,” Smith said. “So our priority has been keeping the increases off the table as much as possible. That’s one of the biggest things we hear from the public. Other concerns that we heard were from departments that have needs in certain areas.”
In the final approved budget, the tax rate remained the same at a rate of $12.89 per $1,000 assessed value.
Overall, Murtagh said this year’s budget process was much smoother than in the previous years.
“Last year, we dealt with significant financial constraints because there was a huge deficit,” Murtagh said. “But we are finally starting to see some of the payoffs from the 2013 budget changes. We are getting out of the woods with the financial crash and the economic recession.”