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City of Elmira operating budget passes, residents now face tax hike

ELMIRA, N.Y. (18 NEWS) - It's been a hot-button issue these last few months, but as of tonight the City of Elmira's 17-percent tax hike now goes into effect.

It was not on the agenda Monday night, however. The reason, a charter in the city's laws.

"Because there were no changes to the proposed budget, it did not have to go on for a vote at City Council tonight based on the charter," Michael Collins, Elmira's City Manager, said. "If no changes are made to the operating budget then my budget that I proposed goes into effect."

That's the reason why the council did not vote on the operating budget that included the tax hike: A charter in the city's laws.

Some residents did not accept that reason as they now face the 17-percent property tax hike.

"Shame on you, Mr. City Manager for not putting it on the agenda for a vote whether you had to or not," Sharon Bukowski, a city resident This is not a dictatorship, this is a council."

This law charter was only realized recently.

"On Tuesday of last week, I met with the Law Department," Collins said. "We went over the agenda and absolutely, that's when it was realized."

Each council member said they would have voted no, but the council could have come up with their own budget during that time. The alternative to the tax hike would have been laying off city emergency personnel and cutting city employee benefits.

"Council as a whole understands where the cuts could be made, but as you heard at the meeting tonight," Collins explained, "nobody wants to cut public safety and that is the bulk of where the money is in our budget."

Now, one councilman says he will try to get that charter changed.

"I will be asking, sometime this year, to have the city law department look into changing our charter," Joseph Duffy, Elmira's Councilman for the city's 3rd District, said. "To make sure the city council will always have a vote on a budget."

In addition, the proposed eight-percent sanitation fee increase is also now in effect.


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