Members of Corry City Council approved the city’s 2017 budget at Council’s final meeting of the year Monday.
The approved budget includes a 1.75 mill increase in property taxes. This takes Corry’s tax millage from 8.6 mills to 10.35 mills.
A home valued at $100,000 will have a tax bill of $1,035. Residents can estimate their 2017 tax bill by multiplying their home’s estimated value by 0.01035.
Council members say they’ve been working since October to cut the city’s expenses where they could in order to pass a balanced budget.
Corry Mayor Charlie Campbell said Council held many discussions concerning what elements of the budget needed to be cut and what elements needed to stay intact.
When asked if Council considered cutting payroll expenses, Campbell said they did.
“We did consider cutting payroll,” he said. “We considered cutting every option we could think of. We made a lot of cuts in a lot of places we didn’t want to. When it came down to it, we didn’t want to cut any more services and cutting personnel would lead to that.”
The general fund estimated revenue for 2017 is $3,674,219. This includes $2,655,426 in receipts from the current tax levy, $159,000 from receipts from taxes for prior years and $859,793 in other revenue.
The estimated expenses for the general fund totals $3,674,219. Of that amount, $3,660,263 is the total expenses for operational and maintenance costs. Those costs break down as: $370,862 in general government, $1,5050,327 in protection to persons and properties, $694,365 in highways, $75,850 in recreation, $1,013,859 in miscellaneous costs. In addition to the operational and maintenance costs, the general fund contains $13,956 in reserve funds, for the $3,674,219 total.
Councilman Steve Drake stated he was unhappy with raising taxes, but it seemed necessary in order to solve some of the problems in Corry that Council is aiming to fix.
“I am certainly not thrilled about raising taxes in order to balance the budget,” he said. “However, I think there are a lot of things that need to be fixed, and we need money in order to do that.”
Drake also said that Council had considered cutting payroll expenses while drafting the 2017 budget, but they decided against it.
“We certainly considered cutting payroll,” Drake said. “A lot of the payroll costs can’t be adjusted though. We’re contractually obligated to pay the majority of it.”
Councilman Steve Bresler also said he was unhappy with having to raise taxes so high, but he hopes the city will understand where Council is coming from.
“A 1.75 mill increase is too high,” he said. “I live here too. I know that it’s expensive and I want people to know that Council hated to do it. We just felt that we had no other choice if we wanted to break the cycle the city is currently in.”
Bresler added the cycle he is referring to is how the city’s finances have been budgeted in the past and how they haven’t been properly preparing to deal with the city’s lack of structural integrity.
“We’ve been trying to fix the way things have been done in the past, and have the budget make more sense,” he said. “We’ve also been focusing on having each department run as a business. But in order to do that, we need to know what it’s costing to run each department.”
Bresler said Council did consider cutting personnel outside of the fire and police departments, but the decision was made not to. He feels the city needs to keep its personnel in order to provide better services to residents.
“For years, instead of exploring other revenue opportunities we’ve just cut people,” Bresler said. “Now we don’t have the personnel to give Corry the services people expect. If we cut personnel, the tax increase wouldn’t have been as high, but to have cuts for the sake of cuts is what we’ve been doing for too long.”
As far back as 2009, The Journal could find no record of staff position cuts, even in 2011, as city officials cited pension plans and rising health insurance costs for employees as the reason for a tax hike then.
In 2015, real estate taxes were raised again by 1 mill. Water rates for residents were also increased at that time, and no personnel cuts were made.
Corry City Councilmembers said they feel it’s important to get the public’s input on what services the residents expect, and what they feel isn’t necessary.
“We need the public input on where cuts need to be made in the future,” Bresler said. “Are there things that are interfering with the services? What services are vital and what should we cut?”
The 2017 was unanimously approved by Corry City Council. Campbell, Bresler, Drake, Councilman Alex Gernovich and Councilwoman Taree Hamilton all voted in favor of the budget.