ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – The Elmira City Council held its bi-weekly meeting on Monday, voting to advance 16 resolutions involving a range of city matters. One of the resolutions was a property tax increase to fund the city’s 2023 budget. The resolution advanced 5 to 1. First District Councilman Nick Grasso was the only one who voted nay.
Resolution 2023-70, sponsored by Council Member Joseph Duffy, reads as follows:
Act on resolution declaring the sum of $15,688.721.00 to be raised by taxation for defraying the expenses of the City of Elmira for the year 2023; that the sum of $35,791,274.00 being the City Budget for 2023 and the sum of $20,102.553.00 be assessed, levied, and raised for defraying the expenses of the City for 2023; said fund designated as per the attached detail of appropriations, revenue, and tax levy. The tax rate will go up by 1%. Last years tax rate was $27.67 per thousand of assessed value. The 2023 tax rate will be $27.95 of assessed value.
“In years past, I haven’t supported budgets solely because the majority of the time there’s a tax increase” Councilman Grasso told 18 news reporter Nicolas Dubina. “And also we get raises in conjunction with that. So that is the case for this year. I did not support the budget this year. Therefore I don’t support you know, levying taxes for the purpose of supporting this year’s budget.” said Grasso.
“When I proposed the budget back in November, it did include a property tax increase.” said City Manager Michael Collins. “Once it’s presented, we go into sessions with City Council, we go over the capital as well as the operating budget. We meet three times, once in November, twice in December. We encourage anybody from City Council, if they have any recommendations, if they have any changes to how they want to see the budget. That’s the time that they can present it. I can tell you that Mr. Grasso never attended never a workshop meeting in regards to the budget. He never put into writing any recommendations on how he wanted to change the budget. He voted against the budget the operating budget a few weeks ago, so I’m not surprised that he would vote against the tax.”
Monday evening, WETM received a statement from Councilman Grasso, responding to the remarks made about him by City Manager Collins.
“I’d like to address and respond to claims made by the City Manager in tonight’s news interview…
The City Manager is correct that I did not attend any of the 3, 2023 Budget Wokshops. Nor did I provide any suggestions, verbally or in writing.
Although, I have previously attended all 9 workshops for the 2020, 2021, and 2022 budgets. And did provide verbal and written suggestions during those times.
My suggestions were disregarded and my questions went unanswered. I was stonewalled and disrespected. On almost all occasions.
From the first budget for 2020 right up to the third in 2022….up until the point of being threatened with physical assault by an appointed, unelected, City employee. We were still conducting “workshops” and Regular Council meetings via WebEx, due to pandemic restrictions. As a result of the City Chamberlain’s threat to me, the Mayor and City Manager terminated the last budget workshop being held virtually on WebEx.
The City of Elmira Law Department founded and substantiated, my claims in their investigation. I can provide the record of this, or it is subject to a FOIA request from any taxpayer or community member.
City of Elmira Councilman- 1st District”
Councilman Grasso also requested more information from City Manager Collins about the 50 ‘Flock Safety Cameras’ the city has recently installed. According to Flock, the cameras can read license plates, recognize specific details about vehicles and send real-time alerts to law enforcement. The city is using $250,000 of federal COVID stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan to fund the cameras for two years. Flock charges a $125,000 annual fee for the service and charges a $350 installation fee per camera. The city will have to figure out how to keep funding Flock cameras for a third year and beyond. 18 news reporter Nicolas Dubina asked Mr. Grasso about his concerns regarding the Flock cameras. Dubina also asked City Manager Collins about Mr. Grasso’s concerns. Their full comments can be viewed below:
The full City Council meeting can be viewed below:
The full list of resolutions that were advanced by the City Council can be viewed below: