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Mayor Linda Witte Unveils Budget Request 2/15/2011
Lowest proposed tax rate increase in a decade

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Office of the Mayor
Olean Municipal Building
101 East State St. -- P. O. Box 668
Olean, NY 14760-0668

Mayor Linda Witte Tuesday handed the Olean aldermen her $16,121,170 budget draft for 2011-2012, announcing it brings good news because it carries the lowest tax rate increase in a decade.

“With this plan we have exceeded our target to keep the tax rate hike under two percent,” said Mayor Witte, asking the aldermen meeting in a Finance Committee session Tuesday night to begin making preparations to dig into an analysis of the numbers.

“The tax rate will rise by only 25 cents, or just 1.73 percent higher than the 2010-2011 rate,” she explained.

The plan requires a tax rate of $14.69 per $1,000 of assessed property value. In contrast, tax rate increases over the past decade have ranged from $2.49 to $23.23 per $1,000. Property taxes will generate just over $7 million to support the $16.1 million general fund.

The average homeowner could expect to see an increase of about $19 in their tax bills, for a total of about $885.00.

“Increases in our projected spending with my plan total $102,856, and that’s less than a one percent increase over the 2010-2011 level of appropriations,” she added.

Mayor Witte slashed the spending increase by $510,000 from the 3.83 percent increase tallied in the first round of departmental budget requests. She said she expects the city’s aldermen may make further changes to the plan in the coming weeks and those numbers could be revised downward.

The plan also provides for a contingency account equal to five percent of operating costs, to be ready in case of unforeseen emergencies. This amount is recommended by the NYS Comptrollers Office.

A final budget must be in place by April 15 for the 2011-2012 fiscal year beginning June 1.

Mayor Witte also pointed out that, as with the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the city will see a cut in AIM, or state aid to municipalities. The most recent information received in the mayor’s office projects the city will lose a minimum of two percent of its aid, or $45,741, based on the city’s heavier reliance on AIM funding for 10 percent of its budget. Also cut is over $30,000 in NYS Revaluation Aid that was included in the 2010-11 Budget.

“Had we not incurred the reduction in AIM and Revaluation revenue, along with an increase of over $210,000 in state mandated pension costs, we would have been able to lower taxes from last year by over 3%. This is an example of the effect Albany has on our budgeting process,” she said.

“While I am pleased with the nearly 4% drop in taxes from last year, it is imperative that I remind our council and the local taxpayers that we have been informed by the state that next year will be even more fiscally difficult than this year. I cannot forecast a similar tax cut for 2012-13 with the uncertainty that may come from the state capital.”

Mayor Witte also announced good news in the form of low proposed water and sewer rate increases, despite her initial hope to keep those rates flat. Water and sewer customers will see rates increase just four cents per 1,000 gallons in each fund, or one-half of one percent. If the budget is passed by the Council the water rate will be $58.04 per 1,000 gallons and the sewer rate will be $55.19 for the same volume in the coming year.

“With breaks in lines and the decaying infrastructure it is prudent to increase the rates slightly to account for needed repairs and maintenance. Our DPW feels that this small increase will allow both departments to continue to operate in a very efficient manner,” she said.

Mayor Witte said she looks forward to working with the Common Council, the Department Heads and the New York State Comptroller’s Office to have a budget finalized by April 15.