Mayor Steve Noble will introduce a proposed 2019 budget that will freeze the tax levy at 2017 levels and produce a small tax rate decrease for most city homeowners.
The budget proposal totals $43,976,477, $346,633 higher than the current year’s budget. The proposed tax levy, meanwhile, will remain at $17,650,940. Tax rates, meanwhile, will decline slightly from $9.94 per $1,000 of assessed value for residential “homestead” properties to $9.74 per $1,000. For “Non-homestead” commercial properties, rates will decline from $17.39 per $1,000 to $15.59 per $1,000.
Noble credited increases in sales and mortgage tax revenue and sound oversight by department heads for the continuing tax freeze.
“It helps when you have good department heads who are willing to hold the line on spending, while realizing that sometimes you have to spend more in some areas than others,” said Noble.
Next year, priorities will include the city Department of Public Works. Noble’s proposed 2019 capital plan includes $575,000 in new equipment and supplies for the department, and $1 million set aside for street paving.
Noble’s budget also sets aside $150,000 to equip city firefighters with a second set of turnout gear. Noble said that the proposal was driven by research showing that firefighters face increased risk of cancer and other health issues from exposure to contaminated gear. The new equipment will allow them to change out of and clean contaminated gear after a fire while remaining ready for the next call.
Noble’s budget also places an additional $767,000 in the city’s reserve fund in anticipation of settling contract talks with the Kingston Police Benevolent Association. City police have been working without a contract since January 2016.
Noble’s budget would also create a new Office of Grants Management to administer some $35 million worth of grants while seeking out new funding opportunities. The proposed spending plan also expands the city’s experiment in “participatory budgeting.” This year, the city set aside $15,000 in each of Kingston’s three business districts to be used on community projects chosen by residents and business owners. This year, the pool of money will be expanded to $20,000 per district.
Noble’s budget proposal will go before the Common Council’s Finance Committee later this month. The committee will have a chance to interview department heads, seek out additional information and make changes before sending the spending plan to the full council in December for approval.