OSWEGO — Port City councilors unanimously approved a 2022 spending and revenue plan at a special meeting Wednesday night, leaving Mayor Billy Barlow’s initial proposal largely intact.
The $46,173,948 spending plan marks a roughly 1.1 percent spending increase from the current budget year but holds the property tax rate at the same roughly $15.29 per $1,000 of assessed value. The Oswego Common Council authorized two spending and revenue neutral amendments to Barlow’s initial proposal and approved an override of the state property tax cap Wednesday prior to the budget vote.
Under the $15.29 per $1,000 tax rate, a property valued at $100,000 would pay $1,529, plus sewer, water and other city fees.
Barlow said the 2022 budget allows the city to maintain the progress in neighborhoods, parks and infrastructure made in recent years, while keeping Oswego “an affordable place to live, work and raise a family.”
“We’re doing our best to continue with improvements and new amenities to our community while keeping our taxes and fees affordable for our residents,” Barlow told The Palladium-Times. “The council, along with the majority of Oswego residents, feel they’re getting their money’s worth out of city government right now and that’s what this budget really is all about. More improvements, more progress, more investment, with no additional cost to our taxpayers and no dipping into the reserve funds like previous administrations.”
Barlow said the city “is in great financial shape” overall, and the current administration intends to keep it that way for the next two years.
The 2022 budget allocates roughly $7 million for the city Department of Public Works, along with $4.9 million for the Oswego Police Department and $4.7 million for the Oswego Fire Department. In line with previous budgets, nearly 90 percent of the city’s total expenditures are personnel costs, including roughly 50 percent for salaries, 15 percent for fringe benefits and 24 percent for contractual obligations, according to budget documents.
Approximately $300,000 in previously agreed upon contractual raises make up for the bulk of the roughly $514,000 in additional spending compared to the current budget year.
Debt is the next largest city expense, with roughly 8 percent of costs attributed to city debt, according to budget documents provided by the city.
City officials highlighted several features of the 2022 spending plan, including $120,000 for special law enforcement details, such as the city’s so-called quality of life patrols, special investigations and drug enforcement. The spending plan also calls for $100,000 in water treatment plant and water distribution upgrades, $300,000 for technology upgrades and $80,000 for special events and concerts.
Council President Robert Corradino, R-7th Ward, expressed content with the final product, and said the budget process, which started in June with department heads and moved to the mayor before landing with the council, was “truly a team effort.”
“We all took a hard look at it and produced a budget that is fair and equitable but still maintains services for our residents without raising taxes,” Corradino said, adding the budget is fiscally responsible and is “good for now and for the future,” as the city is not dipping into reserves or savings to artificially lower the tax rate.
In a budget workshop held late last month, councilors reviewed the mayor’s proposed budget and decided to make two amendments, which were both approved Wednesday. One added $20,000 to the city’s events spending to restore the fund to the same $80,000 level as the current budget year, while the other was a minor change to correct a clerical error. The additional expenses were offset by reductions in contributions to city employees’ state retirement funds, payments the state comptroller’s office advised would be lower in the coming year.
Barlow said the pair of amendments made by the council were positive and expressed gratitude to the council and city officials for their efforts in crafting a responsible budget.
Council Vice President Kevin Hill, R-3rd Ward, said the council was once again presented with a “responsible budget” that included no property tax increase for city residents while continuing investment in “vital infrastructure and equipment” in addition to services residents rely upon.
“I’m proud to support the mayor’s budget and proud to be part of a city government that has been able to deliver several consecutive spending plans with no increase in the property tax rate,” Hill said.
Since taking office in 2016, Barlow has overseen a steady stream of mostly flat budgets, with one slight tax increase in the 2018 budget year and one tax cut in 2019. The 2022 budget is the third consecutive spending and revenue plan to keep property tax rates flat following a 2019 tax cut, which was the city’s first tax cut in more than a decade.
Oswego property owners will be asked to pay $12.83 million to fund city government in 2022, up roughly 3 percent from the $12.46 million in the 2021 budget. Despite approving an override of the state tax cap, city officials said the spending plan did not exceed the 2 percent cap, which uses a complex formula that takes several factors into consideration, including payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreements, reserves from previous budget years and a handful of exclusions.
The total assessed value of taxable property in the city is roughly $839.14 million, up a little more than 2 percent from the $814.82 million recorded prior to the adoption of the current budget.