2013 Binghamton City Budget: Tough Times, Tough Decisions

By Erika Mahoney

September 18, 2012 Updated Sep 18, 2012 at 10:42 AM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The numbers are out on the $62 million spending plan proposed by Binghamton's Mayor Matt Ryan for the upcoming year.

It has been a tough few years for the U.S. economy, and many local governments, like Binghamton, are feeling those challenges.

"We must make tough decisions," said Ryan. "In my conversations with city council about this budget, I saw their frustration as they looked at a bare bone city government that is now more than 11 percent smaller than seven years ago."

The title of this year's address was "Stabilizing the Budget for Today and Tomorrow."

Looking ahead to 2013, Mayor Ryan says pension costs pose a big concern. Since 2002, they have increased 2,000 percent.

To combat those costs, Ryan is proposing a $900,000 retirement incentive plan that he says will result in substantial savings in the long term. The $900,000 price tag is a one-time cost. Ryan says it will mean $350,000 to $400,000 in annual savings, and will pay for itself in three years.

If the plan passes, new employees will see a less expensive pension tier and health insurance plan. Ryan said 28 workers have already taken the incentive.

"A huge cost is personnel, however you do need personnel to provide daily services," said Council Member Lea Webb. "And so one of the ways we have discovered we can control some of our costs with personnel is through offering early retirement incentive."

Another proposal to fill the gap-- tax increases.

Ryan is proposing a 10.8 percent increase for residential property taxpayers and a 5.7 percent increase for commercial property taxpayers.

For a residential household assessed at $75,000, that equates to a $.49 daily increase, said Ryan.

This is over the two percent cap on tax levies, so Ryan asked city council for their help in pushing Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide real mandate relief.

But the mayor also said he is quite sure those won't be the final numbers, as some board members have already begun expressing their concerns.

"We have to work to see what we can do to lower that," said Council Member Chris Papastrat. "There's just no way we want to go in and pass a budget with that type of increase."

Tough times mean tough decisions, but Ryan said he has a great deal of confidence in his team and his city.

Meanwhile, he said he is proud of how far Binghamton has come in recent years, pointing to recent downtown renewal like the new student housing complex Twin River Commons and the Riverwalk Hotel.

He said that development is in forward motion with Binghamton University. He thanked BU President Harvey Stenger for making a new, $22 million BU Business Incubator a soon-to-be reality.

The budget is due mid-November.