WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) — Watertown City Council is set to vote Monday night on a budget for the coming year that contains a small tax cut for homeowners and many new city employees.
The tax rate will likely drop to 1.74%, according to City Manager Ken Mix. The tax levy will not increase, Mix said.
The tax levy is the total amount of property taxes the city will charge in the coming year. The tax rate is the rate at which each taxpayer is charged and is usually expressed as X number of dollars and cents for every thousand dollars that an individual property is assessed.
The city is awash with money from the federal government in COVID relief funds, and the council has agreed to add 20 new jobs.
But it rose to 20 by cutting four new jobs, including two in the police department, leading to a dust-off Wednesday between two familiar opponents, Mayor Jeff Smith and Councilman Cliff Olney.
Olney disagrees with the cut and took to social media on Wednesday to accuse Smith of “defunding the police.”
“Defund means moving funds and what we put in the budget was funding for more police officers. I didn’t hear anyone in the audience say they didn’t want more police in this community at all,” Olney said.
Even with the cut, the municipal police still get three new positions.
Mayor Jeff Smith says Olney is wrong and points out that the council member is offering to give himself a raise in the budget, money the mayor says could be used for public safety.
“He’s a gentleman who’s been in the job for 5 months,” Smith said. “So I think the public can see who he really is for.”
Council members Lisa Ruggiero and Patrick Hickey also support the pay rise, with the no coming from Mayor Smith and council member Sarah Compo Pierce.
“For the city council to say, ‘Oh, we’re going to give ourselves a raise because we can’, when all the ratepayers, they don’t have the ability to do it themselves, is wrong in my opinion,” he said. said Compo-Pierce. said.
Councilman Ruggiero said city management receives annual pay raises and that extra money for lawmakers will be $20,000. She doesn’t understand the mayor’s opposition.
“Most of us agreed on everything but $20,000 he has a problem with – I mean, it’s his prerogative, he can decide not to take the raise,” he said. she declared.
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