Taxpayers express concern about tax, spending increases proposed by city manager

WATERTOWN, NY – In advance of tonight’s City of Watertown budget hearing, local taxpayers and elected officials joined Reclaim New York Initiative for a discussion on how best to address concerns about the city manager’s budget proposal, which calls for a 9.5-percent tax increase and a five-percent increase in spending.

Hosted by Reclaim New York Initiative Regional Director John Byrne, the roundtable discussion included local officials, business owners and other concerned citizens.

“The budget proposed by the city manager is a disaster. A 9.5% increase in taxes and a 5% increase in spending will only serve to drive out more families or businesses. The council should oppose overriding the tax cap. People simply can’t afford to have their taxes growing in leaps and bounds,” said Reclaim New York Initiative Regional Director John Byrne. “The proposed budget doesn’t help people, it only serves to feed a government addicted to spending.”

“Hats off to the councilmembers and the Mayor who have expressed a willingness to find cuts and scale back the proposal. Diligent, informed budgeting – not unfettered spending – does more to help the city and the economy grow. Opposing a tax cap override is the first step in getting a responsible budget that works for the city and its taxpayers,” Byrne continued. “In recent interviews, councilmembers and the mayor have put forward a number potential actions that could reduce the scope and size of the city’s budget, including lowering the cost of email services and reassessing vehicle and equipment purchases.”

As an alternative to breaking the tax cap, some elected officials have proposed fuzzy math to make the numbers work.

“Property taxpayers in Watertown are getting hit from all sides. Sure, Albany’s mandates don’t help. But revenue schemes like overestimating sales tax revenue just to artificially stay under the tax cap doesn’t get the job done and doesn’t help taxpayers. After six years of missing the mark on sales tax projections, it’s time to rethink our calculations. Having an affordable budget means spending only what taxpayers can afford now, and not saddling the city with costs that will hurt everyone down the road. Watertown’s citizens have spoken – they can’t afford such a high cost of living. The City Council must find ways to make smart, sensible cuts to the budget to give people a responsible plan that gets under the tax cap,” Byrne continued.

Reclaim New York Initiative became involved in the Watertown City budget after citizens approached the group with concerns about the city manager’s proposal and its impact on local businesses, families trying to make ends meets, seniors trying to retire in place, and young people looking to build for the future.

Local resident William George said, “I’m glad the Watertown City Council is working to keep the budget under the tax gap.”

City of Watertown resident John H. Hullbert said, “After going to many of the budget meetings, I am glad to see the Watertown City Council working to keep the budget down, so we can make ends meet.”

The Council’s vote to override the tax cap will occur during its regularly scheduled meeting tonight at 7:00pm.