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Finance Budget Shows $10 Million Increase

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The Board of Finance and Taxation (BFT) last week approved a budget to send to Mayor Erin Stewart showing a 4 percent increase equaling about $10 million.

The board recommended a budget of $251,553,733 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, compared to the current operation budget of $241,537,535.

“Ninety-nine percent of the budget is contractual agreements and health benefits that have already been approved,” said Mary Morocco, board of finance chairman. “There is no money and the City is in limbo. We do know what the State is going to do and there has not been debt restructuring. No one knows where everything is going so that was all we could approve.”

About $6.6 million is in debt service payments and about $1.5 million is in increased police and fire department pension obligations.

The BFT also recommended almost $1 million in increases to the Workers’ Compensation Fund.

The Board of Education budget was set at $125.7 million as it was last year.

Morocco said that was because the Board of Education is not a department of the City.

“They do not provide us with a line item budget. No one from the City negotiates contracts and employees are not employees of the City. The Board of Education does not report to the Mayor,” Morocco said. “If the board of education was a City department, they would be required to propose a budget with a 5-10 percent decrease that the Mayor asked all the other departments to do. The Board of Education does not return money that is not used to the general fund.”

Morocco said the City gives about $2 million in in-kind services to the board of education.

“The taxpayers also pay for bonding and school repairs,” Morocco said.

Superintendent Nancy Sarra had proposed a $130.4 million budget proposal, showing a 3.72 percent increase.

The Police Department is to be funded about $18.2 million while the Fire Department is to be funded at almost $14 million.

The Public Works Department saw a slight increase with a $13.3 million budget allotment, compared to $12.6 million previously.

The mayor will present her budget to the Common Council in April. The Council will then have 60 days to make changes and approve a budget.