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Oswego releases mayor's 2015 budget; no layoffs expected

Gino Geruntino
The Oswego Common Council is looking over Mayor Tom Gillen's proposed 2015 budget. Councilors say there are creative ways to cut costs and make the city more efficient. (file photo)

Homeowners living in Oswego can breathe a little easier knowing that this year's budget does not include anything close to last year's 43 percent property tax increase.

Mayor Tom Gillen's budget presentation at this week's common council meeting lasted only a few minutes, but spoke volumes. The mayor proposed a $43.3 million budget that includes a property tax increase of 1.4 percent. That translates to about $14 extra for the average $70,000 dollar home.

Democrat Councilor Fran Enwright says this year's budget comes as a big relief for taxpayers.

"I don't think the people could stand much more of an increase, I mean, myself included," Enwright said. "This budget is, really, the increase is basically due to the increase in the personnel and medical benefits and wage increases."

Republican Councilor Eric Van Buren says the budget is good for a first draft, but small changes could be made. That includes expanding the city's codes department that was taken over by the city's fire department last year.

"There's areas that I think we're all concerned with, and I think it's a good time for the councilors to weigh in on what their constituents want to see done, or what they would like to see done," Van Buren said.

Van Buren also believes the city is seeing economic growth.

"The comptroller's report on Oswego put us at stable," Van Buren explained. "That's the first time that's happened in several years. The revenues are up in certain areas. The assessed value of the city has increased. It's a small rate, but it still increased."

During his presentation, Gillen said the proposed budget is about $1.25 million more than last year's, but doesn't come with any layoffs or loss of services. The mayor also pointed out that this year's budget complies with the city's recently approved five percent tax cap.

Van Buren says this year's spending plan will provide taxpayers with a needed respite, especially following two years of high property tax increases meant to balance out years of flat taxes and using reserves to fill the gaps. But he's also looking for additional ways to strengthen the city's financial footing.

"Things like putting money into the fund balance, which is something that we haven't done for several years," Van Buren said. "We want to make sure there are some directional items in there that people can understand and see where those are. I'd like to talk to the department heads and see what their departments entail."

Three public meetings will be held on Nov. 18, 19 and 21, to gather the public's opinion on the proposed spending plan.