Rome's Mayor Joe Fusco delivered his budget message Wednesday with rough news for a city that hasn't seen a tax increase in several years. Our Andrew Sorensen tells us why the bills are going up in Rome and where new rates could hit the hardest.
ROME, N.Y. -- Rome Mayor Joe Fusco delivered a mixed bag in his budget address Wednesday.
"Well the budget's process has been very difficult, we've had to make a lot of cuts and a lot of changes and we still came up quite short," Fusco said.
The good news is most services will remain untouched under the proposal. The bad news is the proposal comes with a bigger price tag.
Residents inside the city tax district would pay 3.87 percent more in taxes. Those outside the district are looking at a 5.71 percent increase.
"It's a harsh reality, you can't go five years without raising taxes and then expect not to," said Fusco.
"I'm not happy with the five percent increase," admitted John Nash, finance committee member and common councilor. "And I think my fellow councilors are not that happy either about it. So we're going to work and try and whittle it down to a more acceptable level."
The tax increase could only come down slightly with further negotiations but there are other increases in this budget residents probably won't be able to avoid.
The city can expect water rates to rise nine percent and sewage rates to increase 2.5 percent with major bonds going into place to come into line on federal mandates.
"We're stuck with that. I've asked, 'how can we avoid it?' And you can't avoid it without significant penalties so the time to do it is now," said Nash.
The mayor says he's done all he can to keep the taxes and rates low, including major staffing cuts.
"At this point, it's a matter of where do you want to start cutting? What services do you want to diminish? What programs do you want to diminish?" he asked.
His answer to those questions is he doesn't want to.
Mayor Fusco is already proposing a budget decrease from last year, and he says many programs, like the police and fire departments are already operating as minimally as possible.