Nieghborhood initioative going from 175k to 1.5 mill.
reason for the increase?
New approach, same tax rate
City budget process has changed, but result likely to be the same in terms of cost to residents
by DAVID L. SHAWfirstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, September 30, 2010 1:07 PM CDT
GENEVA — A new city budget process will likely produce the same old tax rate.
The first draft of a 2011 city budget was unveiled at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Although the budget is up by some $800,000, the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value is expected to remain at $18.26, the fifth consecutive year that rate has been proposed.
With city assessments basically the same as this year, most property owners should not see an increase in their city tax bill.
The spending plan was presented by City Manager Mathew Horn, who had city staff involved in the Council-approved process called “budgeting for priorities” for the first time.
Rather than have department heads submit budget requests to Horn for analysis and adjustment, the new process involved having departments submit requests for proposals for providing administrative, community and public safety services.
“The goal was to find out exactly what it will cost to deliver the services you have asked for,” he told the six Council members present. Absent were Jason Hagerman, Jacqueline Augustine and Stephen O’Malley.
Horn said $400,000 was taken from the general fund reserves to allow the tax rate to remain the same.
The draft budget contains some new initiatives that resulted from the more involved budget process.
• Revamping City Hall by relocating and retraining staff to deal with customers on a more efficient and timely basis, emphasizing a single point of entry and having multiple staff members able to handle several different customer requests.
• A new software system for financial matters with a customer service component. It would cost some $250,000, spread over several years.
• Saturday office hours for city residents at the Geneva Neighborhood Resource Center on Seneca Street. There also is a community survey planned for 1,200 city households to gauge how the city is providing services and showing areas needing improvement.
• More efforts at providing information to the public through weekly press conferences, weekly radio programs and an overhauled website, social network and the e-blast mass e-mailings.
• Digitizing many records in the city clerk’s office so they are searchable on the website. Also, a public education campaign by the assessor’s office to dispel misinformation about the impact of home improvements on assessments.
• An expanded campaign to revitalize city neighborhoods, working with real estate agencies to market specific neighborhoods. The budget calls for more “curb appeal” projects, a new 50-50 sidewalk replacement program and continued assistance provided by the city’s Neighborhoods Office.
• Streets to be reconstructed in 2011 could be Lewis Street from Exchange to LaFayette and Norwood, Sharon and Cross streets. Other capital projects planned are new catch basins, water system improvements, sewer plant upgrades, cemetery upgrades and a lakefront accessibility project for the disabled.
• Equipment purchases planned are a backhoe, mini-excavator, water meter testing tank and a lawn mower.
• A public information officer for the police department, a neighborhood policing strategy with bicycle and foot patrols. The plan also calls for youth services in partnership with the county and school district. That includes a list of at-risk youth who would be targeted for activities.
• Dispatching services would remain in the city in a combined operation housed in an addition to be built onto the fire department.
The water budget would not include a rate hike in light of new, more accurate meters installed this year. Horn said sewer rates are projected to rise 34 percent, caused by payment on a $15 million sewer plant upgrade in 2008 coming due and the loss of $30,000 in revenue from not treating leachate from the Ontario County Landfill.
A public hearing will be held on the budget at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the start of Council’s regular monthly meeting.
Council members present received a copy of the budget on a tiny computer flash drive, rather than a binder with hundreds of pages.
See today's Finger Lakes Times for a city budget comparison.