In Rome, $48.9 million budget passes
ROME — The $48.9 million spending plan was approved by a 6-1 vote during Wednesday's Common Council meeting after an amendment was made to restore funding to four of the 22 general city line items that councilors had cut monies from in the city's original proposed budget.
Fourth Ward Councilor Ramona L. Smith was the only councilor to vote against the overall budget. She said it wasn't because she disagreed with Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo's spending plan presented to the council in September. Smith said this year the budget process was "too lengthy," and that councilors "didn't really make changes to the comprehensive plan" and that there were "no critical issues."
"I just wasn't comfortable with the changes," she added.
The $48,967,418 budget holds the line on property taxes, calling for a 0% tax increase with a roughly $3 million increase in spending.
Weekly meetings with department heads began soon after Mayor Izzo released the budget on Sept. 28, giving councilors "sufficient time to evaluate all the line items, which were very clear in the budget," Smith said. "After the meetings, councilors had time to ask more questions and get answers" since the process began in September.
The Common Council presented cuts to 22 general city line items in the proposed $48.9 million budget, which City Treasurer David C. Nolan said was received by his office Wednesday afternoon, leaving little time to contact department heads. He pleaded for funding to be restored for at least four of the 22 items.
"This afternoon I received the proposed cuts to the city budget and responded around 6 p.m. tonight," said Nolan, before urging the council to reconsider four of the proposed cuts.
After Ordinance 9533 approving the annual budget for 2023 was removed from the table, Fifth Ward Councilor Frank R. Anderson thanked department heads who took part in the annual review of the proposed budget.
"The discussions were fluid and informative, and a lot of good questions were asked," he said. "The council takes seriously our judiciary responsibility to do our due diligence and review the budget line-by-line. Yes, there's a zero tax increase, but we need to make sure we're spending money the right way so that we're moving the city forward."
The councilor went on to explain that while the 2023 proposed budget was the sixth consecutive spending plan with no property tax increase, spending had increased by nearly $3 million.
"A lot of that had to do with salaries and overtime because we have union negotiations coming up in 2023, in addition to the line item for fuel and utilities, because the cost of everything right now is out of control. I don’t disagree with the increases, but they are increases," Anderson said.
He also added that about $1.5 million was used from the fund balance to get the 0% property tax increase compared to 2022, when the city "took less than $700,000 from the fund balance, and those are the dynamics going on. The key here is that we have to control spending."
Anderson then asked for a motion to amend the budget to include 18 of the proposed general city cuts, rather than 22.
Before the vote on the amendment, Seventh Ward Councilor A. Robert Tracy said there was a "major issue that I don't want to provide an incentive for," and that was for department heads to "pad" their budgets in the future knowing the possibility of cuts by the council during the budget process.
"I don't think the proposed cuts are money being wasted," Tracy said. "There has to be a checks-and-balances system. In regard to the proposed cuts, some should be considered by the department heads for the coming year. ... I respect the council for the time expended on this process, however, I feel there's potential to damage the process by approving these cuts, and that we're potentially providing an incentive" for department heads "to pad their budgets in anticipation of cuts."
Anderson then requested a roll call vote to approve an amendment to restore funding to four of the 22 general city line items, which resulted in a 5-2 vote, with Tracy and Smith voting in opposition. In a vote to approve the $48.9 million budget as amended, the vote was 6-1 with Smith voting no.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here