City passes budget; lowers tax hike to 3.97 percent

NORWICH – There was a good deal of concern among city residents heading into Tuesday’s Common Council meeting that members of the council would have done little to lower the proposed 9.8 percent tax rate increase called for in the city’s tentative annual budget.

The council, however, did unanimously vote on a revised budget that calls for only a 3.97 percent tax rate increase – 5.87 percent less than initially put forward. Regardless of the smaller tax rate increase, the $8.3 million budget still required that the city override the 2 percent tax levy enacted by the State of New York for the second consecutive year, which council members also voted in favor of unanimously.

The new budget requires taxpayers pay $19.65 per $1,000 in property taxes, a 75 cent increase over 2012, but $1.11 less than initially proposed. Overall, the average taxable assessed value for a city property owner amounts to $55,000, which means residents can expect to pay an estimated $41.25 per year, or $3.44 per month, according to the City of Norwich Department of Finance; down from $8.53 per month as indicated in the initial budget.

Rates were lowered by small cuts in several sectors of the budget, and by taking money from the city’s reserves.

An increase in taxes was unavoidable, according to city officials. Pension rates over the years have skyrocketed from $466,939 paid to all city employees in 2009, to a projected $1.138 million to be paid in 2013 – the biggest expense in the city’s budget. At the same time, municipalities, including Norwich, are restricted by the 2 percent tax cap put in place by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011.

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