Mayor William James once again announced that there will be a “zero” increase in the 2012 tax rate during last week’s Gloucester City Council meeting.
“We have worked very hard and pursued every avenue to keep the budget down,” said Mayor and Council.
“The city has saved money by privatizing the ambulance system. Eleven employees were laid off and we are five officers short in the Police Department, but city services should not be cut,” James said.
The $17,166,000 municipal budget for 2012 was restricted to a 2 percent, state-mandated cap, and towns cannot go over that without putting the overage on a public referendum.
“We are proud in keeping a zero increase. Capital improvements, necessary equipment purchases and street repair will continue,” the mayor said.
Reportedly, the city surplus is close to having $1 million left, but appropriations are down by $800,000 this year.
The amounts of uncollected property taxes are up because people are having difficulty in paying, City Council members said.
Mayor James pointed out that an increase in taxes may be forthcoming when the county and school taxes are added into the tax bill.
Residents Theresa Graham and Louisa Llewellyn asked about the cuts suffered by the Gloucester City library.
Funds for the library were cut by $100,000 this year.
Another resident and Library Director Elizabeth Egan both said the library serves every element of the residents, and is actually an extension of the school system.
Councilman Daniel Spencer, chair of the Finance Committee, and Councilman Nicholas Marchese said the city is proud of the library.
“All the variables went into the decision for the cuts. The library was sitting on a surplus of $80,000 this year that must be used,” they said.
“A new HVAC system was installed for which the library used at least half of the surplus monies to help pay for the $160,000 system. We are putting new windows and doors in the library and are purchasing new computers,” council said.
“The city is going to keep up the grounds and landscaping duties,” Spencer added. “We have a beautiful library and do not want to close it.”
Mayor James and the governing body agreed.
In other business several resolutions were approved that authorizes the disposal of surplus property in the Gloucester City Fire Department.
A 2002 Chevy Blazer, two transfer tanks, a fuel pump, 10 sections of 3.5 inch used fire hose and 33 used fire helmets will be disposed.
Appointments to the Gloucester City Urban Renewal, Inc. were tabled for further discussion.
Jess Torres, vice chairman of the Shade Tree Commission, asked if mulch was going to be placed around the planted trees.
Steve Cianchetti, Supervisor of Public Works, said the mulch is ready to go.