Ryan's 2014 budget calls for more police

By Perry Russom

September 16, 2013 Updated Sep 16, 2013 at 11:36 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) For the second time in 15 years, Mayor Matt Ryan proposed a tax increase under 1 percent.

The increase was one of the points Ryan made in the 2014 City Budget Address.

"We are in much better shape than we than we during the whole great recession," said Ryan.

The 0.3 percent increase on residential properties means the average homeowner will see an annual increase of a little under $8 a year.

It joins a commercial property tax increase of 1.1 percent as two highlights of the mayor's last budget proposal in his two term reign.

"I touted our unions and their cooperation," said Ryan. "We negotiated really good contracts with our unions."

Binghamton Police report the city's overall crime rate is up 30 percent from last year.

To help drop that number, Ryan is proposing to add three more police officers -- one for each shift.

"We welcome three, six, nine, whatever we can get," said Binghamton Police Chief Joe Zikuski. "Any increase is beneficial to the city and it's residents and people visiting."

Ryan's proposal calls for pension costs to be deflated by 6 percent -- with the budged health care costs down 20 percent.

"It speaks to a lot of the hard work we've done over the years and also some of the change happening at the state with the pension cost coming a little more under control," said Lea Webb, Binghamton City Councilwoman.

The proposed budget left some council members skeptical.

"When we first got into office, there was one very similar to this one and the following year we had a 7 percent increase, 6.9," said John Matzo, Binghamton City Councilman. "This is something we really have to take a closer look at."

The mayor's budget address has spilled onto the campaign trail with those vying for his seat taking different stances on the issue.

While both supported the mayor's call for increases to public safety, Republican candidate Rich David said the mayor's plan lacks the signs of stable, long-term planning.

Meanwhile, democratic candidate and city council president Teri Rennia said the plan is a product of years of hard work and investments that are now paying off.

"We have worked really hard over the past seven years and anyone who has been around or been to the budget hearings, watched the process at all knows that," said Rennia. "It hasn't always been an easy process and council and the mayor haven't always agreed, but I think between the early retirement incentive between the new health insurance program, I think the proof is there that the investments we've made are paying off and the taxpayers are starting to see the savings."

David said the mayor's action validates something he's been saying for a long time.

"The last time we saw a budget that barely had a tax increase one year, we had a significant increase the following year, then a reduction then an increase," said David. "That's not stability. That's not long-term planning."

The budget has to be approved by the city council by mid-October before being signed in November. The first public budget hearing is this Wednesday.