Kingston's Community Budget Forum: A Summary
Last night, Mayor Noble hosted his annual Community Budget Forum. which includes remarks from Mayor Noble and a presentation by City Comptroller John Tuey. Department heads from the various City departments are present to answer questions and receive suggestions and general comments that will be referred to during the development of the 2019 budget. According to the Mayor, his budget will be complete and presented to the Common Council on October 17, after which will follow weeks of discussion and debate among the Aldermen as well as a public hearing for city residents to give feedback.
John Tuey’s presentation focused on the global view and breakdown of the budget, explaining generally where city revenue comes from and the large categories of spending.
The budget is made up of two separate pools of money; the general fund and the sewer fund. The vast majority of city revenue and spending occurs out of the general fund. It finances the operations of the Police, Fire, Parks and Recreation, Citibus, Public Works, and Building Safety departments, as well as City Hall. For this year, the General Fund was $42.5 million, 73% of which came from property (42%) and sales tax (31%). The rest comes from state and federal aid, revenues the departments collect through fees and fines and such, and other sources (like grants).
By contrast, the Sewer Fund is much smaller ($5.1 mil), has one primary source ((90% funded by the per unit sewer use fee) and is allocated to one primary project; the management of the City’s sanitary sewer system, including the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
You may have heard about the “tax cap”. It was instituted in 2012 to protect property taxpayers against huge increases. It’s generally known to be “2%”, but as Tuey explained, it’s really more of a calculation of several factors that results in a number that isn’t necessarily a strict 2%. For 2019, the tax cap is $700,000. What that means is that the City cannot raise the tax levy (the amount they intend to raise through property taxes) by more than a total $700,000 unless they vote to override the tax cap, which John Tuey says the Common Council has never done since 2012. That doesn’t mean they won’t raise taxes, however!
Out of the General Fund, the spending looks like this:
General Government (City Hall)-11.07%
Another way to look at General Fund spending:
75.6% of the city budget is employee salaries and benefits-
32.5% of that is for Police,
24.5% for Fire/Building Safety and Zoning,
16.7% Public Works,
11.2% City Hall
4.9% for Parks and Rec staff.
Retirees benefits account for 10% of the salary and benefits budget.
17.6% is contractual expenses -insurance and claims, utilities, tipping fees for garbage, materials and supplies, various contracts, property maintenance, vehicle fuel, equipment rental, contingency, etc.
6.3% is debt service and transfers
0.5% is capital outlay and equipment.
After the presentation, members of the public were free to go to tables that were set up in the back of Council Chambers and speak with department representatives and ask questions about what their department does, what their budget goes toward, and present any new ideas they might have.
Remember, if you have ideas for the budget, you can still participate! There will be a public hearing on the budget, and you can also email your suggestions to the departments themselves. Go here and departments are listed on the left. Click the name of the department you are looking for and the contact info will be on their page.