OLEAN — “Not a lot of surprises” are in store in the 2020-21 budget being released today, Mayor Bill Aiello said.
Aiello told the Times Herald on Thursday that his proposed budget will be sent out to the Common Council by the end of business on Friday, a day before the official deadline. Under the city charter, the mayor is required to provide a tentative budget by Feb. 15, and the council must adopt a budget by April 15 for a June 1 fiscal year start.
The 2019-20 budget was approved April 10.
“Myself and the department heads have worked very hard to create a budget that is a fair representation and maintains the services,” he said. “We’re just doing some finalizing here, finishing my budget letter.”
The property tax cap, which is based on a 13-part formula, dictates how much a municipality may raise its property taxes in a year. The base of the formula is the lower number between the rate of inflation or 2%.
The Office of the State Comptroller reports that the inflation factor for municipalities with a June 1 fiscal year start like Olean is 1.78% for the upcoming budget.
Aiello said the city has been working with a tentative 1.68% tax cap, and he does not plan to ask the council to override that amount.
The $25.14 million 2019-20 budget called for a tax levy of $7.3 million, with a 1.68% increase expected to add just over $122,000 to the levy.
Aiello had first proposed a 2019-20 budget with a 2% tax increase, with those additional funds generally going to projects and other expenses. Following a request from the council for a budget with no tax increase, the mayor returned with a counter offer to reduce spending by $100,000 while increasing taxes by 0.53%. About a week before the budget deadline, Aiello offered to use a 2% increase to bolster the contingency fund and the council and he settled on a 1% tax increase.
While officials have been hesitant to request significantly more funds for their departments in recent years, some department heads have indicated higher costs to do the job are on the horizon.
For example, Olean Police Chief Jeff Rowley told the council several times in recent months that an additional officer will be needed to cover the cost of changes to the state’s criminal case discovery law which mandates departments and prosecutors to turn over large amounts of evidence within 15 days of an arrest.
In addition, it is possible other changes may occur at the state level to throw off preliminary figures — the state budget is due April 1, with a $6 billion shortfall on the horizon that officials are trying to close.