FULTON — The city of Fulton is on considering a 2020 spending plan that would keep tax rates at the same $20.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, holding tax rates steady in the city for the fourth consecutive year.

The proposed 2020 budget includes few significant changes from recent spending plans, with next year’s expenditures expected to rise about $61,000, from roughly $16.78 million to $16.84 million. The Fulton Common Council scheduled a Dec. 3 public hearing on the spending plan and is expected to vote on the budget tonight.

For the second year in a row, there are few significant changes to the city’s spending plan, with both expenditures and revenues increasing less than 1 percent from the current year. Total revenues are expected to increase from approximately $9.96 million to $10.04 million, leaving roughly $6.87 million to be collected through property taxes, a decrease of about $23,000.

Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. called the spending plan a solid budget and said there were no significant deviations from prior years. Woodward said city leadership “did the best” it could and praised City Clerk-Chamberlain Dan O’Brien, who he said works hard each year on the budget.

“We’ve done the best we can and we’ve always done that,” Woodward said. “We try to keep the tax rate as low as we can and still deliver services. If you want the roads plowed and the cops and police to show up you have to pay for it.”

Woodward, who did not seek re-election earlier this year, said the 2020 spending plan should set the next mayoral administration up for success in the coming year.

Council President Don Patrick Jr., D-3rd Ward, called the spending plan “a great budget,” adding it’s difficult to do much better than holding the line with operating costs rising year after year.

“I’m very pleased with it,” Patrick said. “It should give everybody what they need to work with.”

Under the spending plan, tax rates are expected to remain at roughly $20.50 per $1,000 of assessed value, which — before sewer, water and garbage is calculated — would place the cost at $2,050 for a home valued at $100,000 or $1,025 for a $50,000 property

Property owners’ water, sewer and garbage rates are expected to remain steady in 2020.

The most significant spending increase comes from a hike in bond payments, from $637,105 in 2019 to about $875,038 in 2020, an increase of more than $235,000. The increase is offset by a decrease of more than $400,000 in bond anticipation notes, which last year were significantly higher than previous budgets due to payments made for the Nestle site cleanup.

Patrick said after roughly a half-dozen budget workshops the council feels the proposed spending plan should set up the next administration to succeed, calling it a “very workable” budget that leaves room to improve the city without raising taxes.

Councilor Thomas Kenyon, C-1st Ward, said he was content with the budget, noting he did not want to see a tax increase “because people right now are struggling.” Kenyon said the spending plan should serve the city well in the coming year, and future development could further help the city’s financial outlook.

“I’m happy with it,” he said. “It’s something we can work with for the year and with new businesses coming in we’re going to have more businesses on the tax rolls so that’s going to help us in the following years.”

Public safety costs remain the city’s single largest bill by far — totaling more than $6.5 million for police and fire — and are expected to increase more than $265,000 from 2019 to 2020. City officials said the difference is largely due to a 2 percent contractual salary hike negotiated with the police union. 

Retirement costs for police and fire, which total more than $1.44 million, are expected to decrease by about $64,000 to help offset some of the increases in public safety costs.  

The total assessed value of taxable property in Fulton decreased over the last year, from roughly $336 million in 2019 to an expected to $334.9 million in 2020. 

The public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight. 

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