Oct. 31—Members of the City of Oneonta Common Council received a binder from Director of Finance Virginia Lee during their Oct. 25 meeting, outlining the 2023 preliminary budget.
Lee quickly went through the highlights of the budget and answered some questions.
She said the budget discussions started in July. There was a planning session with the council members who reviewed 72 service areas. Council members then said what they would like to see prioritized in the budget and each item was scored. That resulted in 25 high-priority items, she said.
The budget requests from department heads addressed a number of the 25 priorities, she said. The 2023 budget requests resulted in a deficit of more than $6 million in the general fund.
"The city administrator, the finance director and department heads, as a team, worked together and reviewed every budget request and reduced the deficit from $6 million to $1.1 million," she said.
Lee said cuts were made to every budget line. "We literally cut $100 from Common Council for new name plates," she said. "We kept in what's essential. We had to make tough decisions. And there is still a million dollar deficit."
Lee said in an email, "The current quote for health insurance renewals is a 25% increase. The city's insurance brokers are working on negotiating the final rate increase. The current preliminary budget includes a 15% increase which totals $540,500 citywide and $423,100 for the general fund."
Some things in the preliminary 2023 budget include using Highway Equipment Reserve to purchase a new $240,000 dump truck with plow and sander; IT Reserves of $62,260 for three new servers for the information technology department; Public Safety Reserves of $62,500 for a police vehicle and $25,000 for fire department extrication equipment; Repair Reserves of $26,000 for Wilber Park Pool pump house and sand filter media repairs and Streets and Sidewalk Reserves of $40,000 for sidewalk replacement.
In addition to the health insurance increase, the preliminary budget includes a 47% increase in the fuel budget. However, the city "locked its prices for electricity and natural gas in November 2021 through November 2024, therefore, that budget is consistent with 2022, actually realizing a slight decrease," she said.
The preliminary budget also includes establishing two full-time positions, she said. One person will be hired in the Code Enforcement department and one position to be shared with the water and sewer departments, she said. The preliminary budget also funds several part-time positions including a new part-time emergency management administrator, part-time clerk for central garage, part-time operator for the water plant, and increased part-time hours for DPW.
She said at the beginning of the budget talks there was going to be a $513,000 deficit in the water budget and a $237,000 deficit in the sewer budget, "but after the team worked together," there are no deficits in either budget and the city does not have to use any money in either fund balance to offset a deficit.
The Common Council is scheduled to continue its budget talks during its Tuesday, Nov. 1, meeting.
Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221.