8:22am

Wed January 22, 2014
Regional Coverage

Oswego Common Council hoping for rebound after difficult 2013

The Oswego City Common Council is pushing a more aggressive agenda to help prevent a repeat of last year's 43 percent property tax increase.

Common Council president Ron Kaplewicz says the prospect of another year with massive tax increases scares everyone at City Hall, and is prompting the council to get more creative with the decisions it makes and the revenue sources it taps.

"We need to pay a lot more attention to where we want to be next year and for years to come," Kaplewicz said. "We are taking steps during the course of this year to kind of take the temperature of the 2015 budget and beyond."

Apart from increasing revenues through tourism, sales and property taxes, Kaplewicz says Oswego needs to focus on some of its biggest needs, like its aging infrastructure.

"Not that the resources may be there at this point in time, but when they finally are there - and my prediction is they will be there - because they need to be there, because every city in this country is dealing with this issue," Kaplewicz said. "I want to be the first in line."

The city has been addressing a federal Environmental Protection Agency consent decree too, which Kaplewicz says has already partially come to fruition. The city has finished building a state of the art sewage treatment plant that could allow the city to expand and accept industrial businesses.

He says the city needs to look for revenue sources that aren't property taxes. That includes considering taking a page out of Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner's playbook. Miner asked non-profits who don't pay city property tax to voluntarily chip in money to pay for some of city services. Syracuse University and Crouse Hospital are now paying about $550,000 combined annually.

Kaplewicz says the council is also looking to promote its revenue sources, including the marina, and to encourage Mayor Tom Gillen to establish a city tourism promotion and advisory board. The city formerly had a part-time tourism director, but his position was eliminated from the 2014 budget last month.