3 takeaways from Cortland mayor's 2016 spending plan

CORTLAND, N.Y. – On Tuesday, Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin submitted his proposed budget for 2016 to members of the city's Common Council.

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If last night’s meeting is any indication, the $15.3 million budget is not likely to face opposition from city lawmakers.

1 - Your tax bill from the city won’t change much

Under the mayor’s proposed budget, the tax rate for city residents essentially remains unchanged.

The tax rate would stay flat at around $15.58 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which was also the rate for 2014.

Revenues are expected to exceed $19 million in 2016–a 4 percent increase from $18.9 million in 2015–allowing the city to keep the tax rate relatively flat.

“I’m not going to say this year’s budget is easy, but we have what I would call a little bit of wiggle room,” Tobin told council members Tuesday night.

2 - There's money available to improve neighborhoods

The mayor’s spending plan includes $40,000 in “neighborhood empowerment grants” that would be split among the city’s eight wards.

Tobin is asking council members to approach their constituents and gather ideas for how to improve the quality of life in their neighborhood.

“We’re to the point where if we’re not talking about a plan for the future and making our neighborhoods more attractive, then we’re really not doing our jobs,” Tobin said. “It’s not just about administering a budget…it’s about having a vision for what Cortland can be.”

3 - It's time to deal with “zombie properties”

The budget includes $70,000 in new funding to address vacant or abandoned properties in the city.

Homes that are in foreclosure but not yet under the control of a bank or lender are considered “zombie homes,” which can depreciate the property values of surrounding homes and also pose a safety hazard.

While legislation has been proposed at the state level that would hold banks accountable for homes in disrepair, Tobin said the city needs to take a more proactive approach.

“I think that on the local level, we need to pull ourselves up and start tackling this issue ourselves,” Tobin said. “We’ve seen a couple of municipalities lately that got saddled with a very large bill when a property was deemed unsafe and hazardous. If we are in that situation in the future, where would we fund to take down that structure?”

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