Kingston mayor Steve Noble’s proposed 2021 budget would freeze the city’s tax levy for the sixth year in a row, with a small decrease in the tax rate for propertyowners. The budget includes no layoffs of city employees, a $1.3-million decrease in spending, and an increase of funding for parks, infrastructure and community support.
The 2021 recommended city tax levy remains at $17.7 million. Recommended city tax rates are $8.99 per $1000 of assessed value for residential properties and $14.17 for commercial “non-homestead” parcels. Last year they were $9.04 for residential and $14.30 for commercial. The total budget of $43.2 million is down from the $44.5 million in the 2020 adopted budget. Approximately $1.37 million from the city’s unappropriated fund balance would help the revenue side of the budget.
“Our community has already lost so much, and it is my commitment to continue to protect the financial stability of our city taxpayers while dealing with the increased costs at this difficult time,” said Noble.
The mayor framed an increase of funding for parks and infrastructure as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic slowdown. “Because at a time when our children are struggling to understand why the world is changing, we need to invest in safe, clean parks and community centers for them to play,” said Noble. “At a time where our city is looking for ways to grow and develop our local economy, we need to invest in our infrastructure. At a time when too many of our neighbors are struggling with housing and security, we need to rebuild our vacant homes and move forward policies that protect existing residents.”
The recreation projects planned for 2021 include: a refurbished pavilion at Hutton Park, a new fence and playground upgrades at Barmann Park, the completion of a playground and other improvements at Rickel Knox Park, a new soccer field at Kingston Point Park, and renovations at Andretta Pool. Planned infrastructure work includes the completion of the Broadway Streetscape Project, the realignment of the Broadway/Grand Street intersection, extensive sewer and stormwater sewer system repairs in Midtown, and sidewalk construction on Henry Street.
The recommended budget calls for the purchase of new hybrid electric vehicles for the police and building departments and technology upgrades for police dispatch and interview technology. One of the biggest investments would be $990,000 for a variety of public-works vehicles. These include an automated refuse packer, street sweeper, flatbed service truck, and two dump trucks with plows and sanders.
The budget also includes $100,000 to implement some of the recommendations of the Re-envision Public Safety Task Force, a new group formed this year to evaluate the city’s approach to policing and suggest possible alternatives. This funding would expand mental-health services and “could include mobile health units.”
Most of the recommended $1.3 million decrease in spending is coming from a decrease in contractual expenditures, according to city comptroller John Tuey. This includes cutting back spending on items like office supplies, furniture, tipping fees and utilities. “Contractual expenditures are anything in the budget other than debt, payroll and benefits,” said Tuey.
The budget also cuts expenses by changing vacant but funded positions from full-time to part-time. “There were no employees whose hours were reduced,” said Tuey.
The proposed budget is subject to legislative revision. There is a public hearing to review the budget on October 23 during the Common Council meeting at 5 p.m. A final vote will take place in December.
“While we have carefully navigated the initial impacts of the pandemic, we must continue to be diligent in our financial oversight to weather the difficult days still ahead,” said Noble in a letter to Common Council president Andrea Shaut. “I appreciate the Council’s thoughtful consideration of my proposal and look forward to working together for our community.”
To read the full 178-page recommended budget, visit kingston-ny.gov/budget2021.