The City Council approved increases last week in residential parking permit fees; water and sewer and sanitation rates; and bus fares, a measure that officially balances the recently approved budget and is aimed at generating more revenue.
Many of the rates have not increased in years, and though officials said that residents who remain displaced by Hurricane Sandy will catch a break if they apply for a waiver for sanitation fees while their water and sewer rates remain unchanged, some residents at the June 17 meeting said that homeowners couldn’t afford the new fees.
“The rates are outrageous,” resident Joe McAuley told the council.
City officials touted the $84.6 million budget, approved on May 20, as the administration’s third consecutive balanced spending plan, and the second that stayed within the state tax cap. It includes a 1.2 percent property tax cut, reducing taxes on the average home by nearly $35, thanks to an $8.2 million bond measure to cover the remainder of an “inherited” deficit from 2012, which allowed the city to eliminate a three-year deficit-reduction tax surcharge a year early.
While the budget includes a tax cut, the fee increases — approved in the budget — include a $100 increase in residential refuse and garbage charges.
As was recently pointed out by the state comptroller’s office, in order to see any revenue, the city was required to pass resolutions authorizing the fee increases.
The state also noted $300,000 in the budget that the city has set aside for contingencies, saying that the city charter did not authorize such an appropriation and recommending that the city amend it. The council did just that, part of an effort to avoid having to draw down the city’s fund balance, which officials said created an “inherited fiscal crisis” two years ago.