SYRACUSE -- Property taxes could be raised approximately 28 percent, or an average of $75 per household a year, in the 2011-12 fiscal year in an effort to address deteriorating city roads.
The city council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a $6.6 million tentative budget that would raise property taxes, include a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for city employees and add one more full-time position to the city's streets department.
The council also set June 14 as the date to hold a public hearing, prior to any final approval of the spending plan. The city's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
The property tax increase would generate approximately $450,000 in additional revenue for city officials to use for road repairs and upgrades. There are approximately 95 miles of paved roads within city boundaries.
Mayor Jamie Nagle said the tax increase would come with a two-year sunset clause, which means it would expire after two years.
Even though the tentative budget does not lock any tax increase in place, early hints are that city officials consider the need to address roads more critical than the issue of raising taxes.
"Look at the roads," Councilman Larry Shingleton said when asked if he would vote on a final budget, which includes the property tax increase.
Councilman Doug Peterson suggested he would support the concept of fixing the roads.
City Manager Bob Rice said the projected property increase amounts to about $75 a year per household on a home with an assessed valuation of $250,000. He said it would cost about 20 cents a day per household to address the problematic roads.
"Declining road conditions is a major issue facing the city right now, and we feel this is the first step to starting to address the problem," Rice said.
He said it is never desirable to raise taxes, but failing to address the roads would only bring about further deterioration and cost even more in the future.
The proposed budget also includes:
* A flat revenue stream for sales and use taxes. The budget projects $2.45 million in sales and use taxes, which is the same amount included in the current fiscal year budget. Sales tax is the single biggest source of revenue to the city.
* A COLA that would give city employees their first raise since 2008. There are 70 full-time employees in the city, 73 part-time and eight seasonal workers. Wages and benefits account for $5.1 million of the general fund budget, 67 percent of the overall spending plan, down from 76 percent of the budget just two years ago.
* The cost-of-living adjustment extends to the mayor and city council, with an additional $660 total in revenue being set aside to cover that adjustment. The mayoral post currently pays $10,044 a year, while council members are paid $4,590 a year.
* A second straight year in which the Syracuse Police Department will not be able to rotate vehicles. Officials have talked about the SPD getting into a lease program to address the problem.
* A projection of $65,000 in rent revenue from a potential lease agreement with a tenant to occupy 3,500 square feet of unused space in City Hall.
* $250,000 in costs for a new truck for the Syracuse Fire Department.