SARATOGA SPRINGS With costs rising and revenue down from years past, Saratoga Springs is looking for some way to make up more than $1.4 million in city funding, and property owners will most likely foot the bill for the majority of it.
The issue is driven by a slowdown in development that has lowered the amount of money flowing into the city coffers.
"The council has worked very hard in studying the budget in all the different departments and in studying the city's needs and obligations, the city does have the need to raise property taxes," City Manager Ken Leetham said.
The city recently released a proposal that would finance the entire $1.4 million shortfall through a property tax increase. In that plan, a resident who owns a $200,000 home would owe an annual property tax of $270.38 to the city, up from $102.63.
The city has already taken some steps to decrease spending by laying off employees, decreasing expenditures and eliminating some programs. But even after making those changes, the deficit remains.
In a meeting this week, Leetham presented the council with a few more ways that they might be able to cut into the deficit.
The first was in reducing attorney fees. The city had budgeted $140,000 for legal counsel but officials believe they can cut that number in half by grouping issues that need legal consideration.
"Some things may happen a little slower but the savings come in organizing how we use these services," Mayor Timothy Parker said.
Leetham also said the city could transfer approximately $600,000 from the water fund into the general fund.
The only snag will be that the water fund money would only be available this year. If revenue continued to be down in the coming years, then residents would see another tax increase.
For many residents, and the council, incremental steps seem to be more appealing then shelling out the large increase all at once.
"Obviously it would be best if we didn't see any increase, but it is better to take baby steps for sure," said Dave Wilbur, a Saratoga Springs resident for nine years. "And then hopefully in a year the economy is better and maybe we won't see that increase."The city will hold a truth-in-taxation hearing Tuesday at which the public will have a chance to voice opinions. The final decision will be made in the Aug. 12 City Council meeting.
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